A Liberal Democrat Euro MP is marking Anti-Bullying Week by launching a call in the European Parliament for action to tackle hate crime and bullying against people with Autistic spectrum disorders.
Backed by the National Autistic Society (NAS) and Staffordshire Adults Autistic Society (SAAS), West Midlands region MEP Phil Bennion is working with autism campaigner and NAS Ambassador Kevin Healey, Chairman of SAAS, to raise the issue with a cross-party Written Parliamentary Declaration.
Kevin Healey, who suffers from Autism and has faced cyber bullying and even death threats, has been campaigning for more help and action on the problem for over ten years.
Phil Bennion’s draft Written Declaration on protection of people with autism from bullying has won support from co-sponsor MEPs in several different party groups and is now being assessed by the Presidency of the European Parliament.
Phil Bennion said: “I have been working with Kevin Healey to extend the campaign against internet bullying of autistic people to the European Parliament. Bullying is now a particular problem online where perpetrators can be anywhere, so we need an international approach.
“Beyond facebook and twitter, new social media sites are becoming popular and sadly each are arenas for bullying and abuse to occur.”
“All forms of bullying are unacceptable but those based on autism are particularly damaging. Left unchecked, abuse can escalate into serious assaults.
“We hope the Declaration will be supported by a majority of MEPs which would mean it will be forwarded for further action to the European Commission.
“The EU can play an important role in raising awareness and promoting best practice among governments and local authorities to help ensure that victims are given the best support and bullies made to change.”
Kevin Healey said: “As a person living with autism and a victim of cyber-bullying, stalking, impersonation and death threats, I’m fighting for new laws in Britain and globally.
“Current hate crime laws simply don’t work. Every country needs bullying legislation in place where people can be prosecuted if they cause an offence.
“People with autism are particularly at risk of bullying online, where they spend much of their social life.
“I’m really pleased that Phil Bennion is supporting and backing my campaign across Europe.”
Mark Lever, NAS Chief Executive said: “An alarming number of people living with autism and other disabilities in the UK have been subjected to bullying and hate crime. This has to stop.
“Due to the social difficulties people with autism experience, it can leave them vulnerable to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals. People with autism have the same rights as the rest of society to lead lives free from fear and violence.
“Like all victims of crime, people with autism need to be understood, empathised with and appropriately represented so any moves to improve autism awareness are extremely welcome.”
Notes to Editors: A Parliamentary Written Declaration in the European Parliament is similar to an ‘Early Day Motion’ in the House of Commons. The text with up to 200 words must relate to a matter of EU competence and needs cross-party support from at least three political groups of MEPs to be put forward. If after three months a majority of MEPs sign up in support, it is forwarded to the relevant EU institutions to investigate and/or take further action including legislation. Phil Bennion MEP’s draft Declaration is attached. The draft text has been co-sponsored by MEPs from several different party groups and countries and is now being assessed by the Presidency of the European Parliament before being formally opened to seek support from all 766 MEPs.
National Anti-Bullying Week runs from Monday 18th November until Friday 22nd. See: http://www.antibullyingweek.co.uk/
Autism UK estimates there are around 700,000 people in the UK with autism. According to Autism Europe, clinical studies show that the incidence of related Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is 60 in every 10,000. A recent NAS survey found 81% of autistic people report being the victims of abusive behaviour. 47% have suffered a physical assault while 24% report being bullied online.
Campaigner Kevin Healey: http://kevinhealey.net/ SAAS: Www.saas.uk.com Www.autism-campaign.co.uk
www.autism.org.uk The National Autistic Society 393 City Road London EC1V 1NG 0207 903 3539
For full details on Written Declarations see here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/plenary/en/written-declarations.html
Previous press release on autism: http://philbennion.org/news/154-eu-can-share-best-practice-to-fight-autism-based-bullying