Learning Disability Wales has submitted evidence to South Wales Police about how they have been responding to the Coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown.
About Learning Disability Wales
Learning Disability Wales is a national charity representing the learning disability sector in Wales. Everything that we do focuses on creating a Wales that values and includes every child, young person and adult with a learning disability.
We do this through working with people with a learning disability and their families, Welsh government, local authorities, disabled people’s organisations and the voluntary sector so we can create a better Wales for all people with a learning disability.
For follow-up questions and with answers for the questions we posed please contact out policy officer Grace Krause at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have any questions you would like to ask us about how South Wales Police are currently responding to the covid-19 pandemic?
People with a learning disability may struggle to understand and follow the rules. What is South Wales Police doing to ensure police officers are sensitive to disability issues in the way that they are policing lockdown rules? For example, do police officers understand that some people with a learning disability/autism may have problems communicating including responding to questions so be unable to explain where they are going or why? Is the ‘Keep Safe’ card scheme being used and is it working during this time? (https://www.south-wales.police.uk/en/contact-us/keep-safe-cymru-card).
There is evidence that police in England have been disproportionally fining people from minority backgrounds for violating lockdown rules. Is there a similar imbalance in the way that fines have been issued in South Wales?
How is South Wales Police ensuring that people do not abuse lockdown rules in order to justify harassment and bullying?
Do you have any concerns you would like to share with us about how policing is currently being managed during Covid-19?
We have heard concerns from autistic people and from carers of disabled children in South Wales that the ambiguity about lockdown rules is causing significant anxiety. This anxiety has been significantly amplified by worries about what one autistic person we talked to called “vigilantism”.
Autistic people in particular are worried about being harassed by members of the public or indeed by members of the police force on the grounds of social distancing rules. The reason these rules are so hard to follow is that they are often contradictory and confusing. In addition, people describe struggling with ‘unwritten rules’. For example, one person described being harassed in a supermarket for looking at produce too long.
It is important that South Wales police makes it very clear that while social distancing is vitally important it cannot be used as an excuse to harass people. The policing of social distancing rules should be in the hands of the police and harassment of people, especially of disabled people, should not be tolerated.
Some people with a learning disability or autism needed to go outside or in the car to manage their anxiety/help to keep to routine. But the ‘exercise once a day’ rules made this difficult. Families were therefore worried about breaking the rules and being fined. It wasn’t until 1 May that Welsh Government relaxed these rules so people could go on car rides to manage their anxiety
Thank you for your time and for the opportunity to provide feedback.
Policy Officer, Learning Disability Wales
8 June 2020.
We will include the response from South Wales to our questions when we receive it.