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Real partnership with the police, residents and business

The partnership – Reading Borough Council and Thames Valley Police – were joined by people representing Reading’s Learning Disability Partnership at the Broad Street Mall on Thursday, November 24th, to raise awareness of the scheme which aims to help people with a learning disability feel safe and secure when they are out and about in the town centre.

People with a disability are more likely to be a victim of crime than those without a disability. Through the Reading Safer Places Scheme, the partnerships have been working with people with a learning disability, Teach2Reach – an advocacy group for people with learning disabilities – and also Reading Business Against Crime (RBAC), to combat the problem.

The scheme is run in partnership with RBAC and more than 85 shops in Reading town centre have already signed up and been trained to look out for people behaving in an inappropriate manner towards people with a disability.

People with a learning disability are given business style cards which they can hand to a member of staff in one of the shops that have signed up to take part. This alerts staff to the fact the customer is being intimidated by another person and victimised because of their disability.

Staff can then use the town safe radio link to alert other shops to look out for suspicious behaviour and request support from the police if necessary. Awareness training has been provided by Teach2Reach and businesses have been advised on how best to serve customers with a learning disability. Posters are displayed in the shop windows of those signed up.

Mike Orton, lead councillor for adult social care, said: ‘It is really encouraging so many businesses in the town centre sign up to this scheme and hopefully a lot more will follow. With better understanding of people’s needs, everyone can do their bit to reduce the number of incidents of disability hate crime.’

Rachel Eden, lead councillor for housing and neighbourhoods, said: ‘People with a disability are unfortunately more likely to be a victim of crime than those without a disability. The majority of this type of crime goes mostly unreported and people can continue to be victims of harassment in public places. Reading Learning Disability Partnership and Reading Community Safety Partnership have been working together to raise awareness of this disability hate crime and I hope this campaign goes a long way into stamping out this problem.’

Jeremy Frost from the Talkback Teach2Reach team, said: ‘The Teach2Reach team encourages people to realise what life is like for someone with a learning disability. As well as this scheme raising awareness that people with a learning disability are more likely to be a victim of crime, it also makes shops appreciate that these customers may need a little longer when shopping or some extra help. Someone could come into the shop and are upset about something that has happened outside. The shop may provide a safe place for them for a while until they feel safe again to go round the town.’

If you would like to find out more about the Reading Safer Places Scheme, Anthony Brain on (0118) 937 3179 or Debra Cole on (0118) 937 3742. Shops interested in joining the scheme, can contact George Friel, RBAC co-ordinator, on (0118) 937 3123.

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