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Action needed to keep disabled adults safe

Press release. For immediate release.

Action needed to keep disabled adults safe

Keeping disabled adults safe is the focus of a meeting being held in Auckland this week.

Hosted by People First New Zealand, a national Disabled Persons Organisation, the 16 October meeting will see leaders from the health, education, government, police, community and anti-violence sectors work together to develop systems, policies and processes to stop the abuse of disabled people.

“The latest Census shows that one in four New Zealanders is disabled – that’s more than 1.1 million people. Over 30,000 people living in Auckland have a learning (intellectual) disability, says People First NZ’s Keeping Safe Feeling Safe Project Manager, Kaeti Rigarlsford.

“I think people would be shocked to learn that up to 90 per cent of people with a learning disability will be the targets of bullying, harassment and abuse.

This kind of treatment is just not okay. Everyone deserves to be and feel safe where they live, learn, work and play,” she says.

Sue Hobbs, Project Manager says it is important the community works together to address a very serious problem.

“We all want to be treated equally with respect and dignity. Where incidents of bullying, harassment or abuse happen, people should be listened to, taken seriously and protected from further harm” she says.

Auckland Council and Spectrum Care are among the organisations invited to participate in the meeting.

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“The council supports Keeping Safe Feeling Safe in its efforts to address this very important issue of harassment and abuse towards disabled people,” says Councillor Sharon Stewart.

People First New Zealand held 4 Focus Groups to find out if adults with a learning disability living in Auckland felt safe. Almost everyone had experienced or witnessed some form of abuse. 4 people said that they had tried to take their own lives because of the abuse they had suffered.

Examples of bullying, harassment and abuse included:

Not being given medication when needed and treated respectfully by carers

Being called names, being threatened and living in fear

Being picked on and having money stolen in the street

Sexual and physical abuse: One person disclosed being locked up, repeated sexual abuse and being treated like a dog.

A People First Member says: “I was sexually abused. It made me feel sick. I would really like to help other people to be safe and to feel safe. I just want to get on with my life like anyone else and work with People First NZ to stop the abuse of disabled people.”

The Keeping Safe Feeling Safe project supports people with learning disability to feel more confident to stand up for themselves, and encouragement for family, friends and members of the public to safely intervene when they see abuse happening.

People First NZ wants New Zealand to stop violence against all citizens and that includes people with a learning disability.


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