A GOVERNMENT minister travelled to Blackpool to hear for herself about work by a charity to tackle disability hate crime.
Esther McVey, minister for disabled people, visited Disability First, based in the Centre for Independent Living, on Whitegate Drive.
Reports of disability hate incidents have tripled in the resort – to 36 – after a third-party reporting centre was set up by the charity, to give disabled people confidence to come forward.
The charity launched the service after feedback showed disabled people feel more comfortable reporting hate crime incidents to people they know.
In Blackpool, a quarter of the population are disabled.
A meeting was held at the centre, attended by the minister, along with Hugh Pullinger, director of the office for disabled issues, MPs as well as representatives from the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
Ms McVey said she was very impressed with the work being carried out in Blackpool.
She added: “I came to Blackpool to look at the model here and how people are working together to build strong relationships and help encourage disabled people to come forward to report hate crime.”
Mr Pullinger added: “Not every area has an independent living centre like the one in Blackpool, but the work done here on giving disabled people support and giving them the confidence to come forward is a model for everywhere.”
Disability First – which used to be called Disability Information and Support – was on the verge of closure in 2002. But a campaign, backed by The Gazette, helped show how important the service was and its value to the community in supporting the large numbers of disabled people in Blackpool. Bosses at the service managed to secure funding from the council and local health services.
The organisation went from strength-to-strength, moving to better facilities on Whitegate Drive from Clifton Street and now being recognised as national best practice.