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Department of Health

Think autism: updating the 2010 adult autism strategy

5. “I want to be safe in my community and free from the risk of discrimination, hate crime and abuse.”

Code of Practice for Victims

The Government brought into force a new Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in December 2013, which sets out the information and support provided to victims of crime by criminal justice agencies in England and Wales.

The new Code provides an enhanced level of service to victims of the most serious crime, persistently targeted and vulnerable or intimidated victims to make sure they get the right support at the right time. Victims suffering from a mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983, a physical disability or that have a significant impairment of intelligence or social functioning will be entitled to an enhanced service under the Code as a vulnerable victim. This includes quicker updates on the status of their case and referral to pre-trial therapy or counselling where appropriate and available.

To ensure that people who need this enhanced support get it, the police have a duty under the Victims’ Code to assess victims at an early stage.  Every victim is entitled to have their details passed on to victims’ services who offer emotional and practical support to help victims to cope with and, as far as is possible, recover from the impacts of the crime. These services can also be accessed by victims who do not report the crime to the police.

From 1 October 2014 the majority of emotional and practical support services for victims of crime will be locally commissioned by Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), rather than central Government. They will be able to join with commissioners for health and social care locally to ensure a shared approach to support provision for victims and witnesses. In particular, it will be important for them to engage with local Autism Partnership Boards or their equivalent.

Special measures for victims and witnesses

Provision of special measures to victims and witnesses, including the Intermediary special measure, are currently being reviewed with a view to increase the uptake and consequently the support to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses when giving evidence to the police and in court. The Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) web site includes information, and interactive programmes developed to help and support vulnerable victims and witnesses. For example, one scenario involves a character called Joe, a victim with autism.  In undertaking the modules and exercise, participants explore matters that may arise and the support that is available throughout the life of a case. Particular attention is given to special measures and questioning techniques that barristers may use during a trial. The information highlights good practice which aims to achieve greater access to justice for a section of society that is exposed to higher levels of victimisation. The CPS is currently working to develop further material. It is intended that this will take the form of an aide-memoire and support material for prosecutors, highlighting key issues, implications for the prosecution process and sources of support.  (Action 13)

Preventing disability related harassment on public transport

In February 2014, the Minister of State for Transport, Baroness Kramer, wrote to bus industry representatives to re-iterate the Government’s support for disability awareness training and to encourage bus and coach drivers to undertake such training courses at the earliest opportunity. The Department for Transport also committed to review the uptake of disability awareness training amongst bus and coach drivers by March 2014. To inform the review, the Minister sought input from industry on the number of drivers who have undertaken the training, as well as on the structure and effectiveness of disability awareness training courses used by various organisations. Each train operator is required to have a Disabled Persons’ Protection policy as part of their licence to operate which commits them to providing disability awareness training to all passenger facing staff and managers.

In 2013 the Department for Transport endorsed an industry led initiative making bus travel more accessible for people with hidden disabilities by encouraging operators to sign up to the Journey Assistance Card scheme developed by the Confederation of Passenger Transport. The Cards are not a ticket to travel, but when presented to the driver they indicate that the passenger requires specific assistance.

The Autism Programme Board will ask the Department for Transport to provide a report on their review of disability awareness training, including autism and work to prevent disability related harassment, and their planned next steps, by the end of 2014/15. (Action 14)

The Government recognises that educating young people about online safety is key to tackling cyber bullying. So from September 2014 pupils in all four key stages will be taught about e-safety as part of the new curriculum. The Government has also pressed for progress through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and works to bring together key organisations such as Facebook and Microsoft and is chaired by Government Ministers. Internet providers, schools and parents all have a role to play in keeping children and young people safe online.