MEP’s Autism Bullying declaration goes ‘live’ at European Parliament
A cross party call for action to tackle hate crime and bullying against people with Autistic spectrum disorders has passed its first hurdle at the European Parliament.
Backed by leading Autism campaigner Kevin Healey, chair of Staffordshire Adults Autistic Society (SAAS) and Autism Europe, Midlands Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion’s Written Parliamentary Declaration has received technical approval by the Presidency of the Parliament and is now open for signature by MEPs.
European Parliament Written Declarations are similar to Early Day Motions at Westminster. The Declaration on Protection of People with Autism from Bullying calls for the EU to promote research and share best practice on tackling bullying and disability hate crimes. The text has been co-sponsored by a number of MEPs from different parties and countries.
Kevin Healey, who suffers from Autism and has faced cyber bullying and even death threats, has been campaigning for more help and action on autism-related issues for over ten years.
Phil Bennion said: “I have been working with Kevin Healey to extend his campaign against internet bullying of autistic people to the European Parliament. Bullying is a particular problem online where perpetrators can be anywhere, so we need an international approach to regulating websites like Ask FM, twitter or facebook.
“I am pleased the Declaration text has been ruled in order and is now open for signature by MEPs. If it is backed by a majority of Parliament’s 766 MEPs it will be forwarded for further action to the European Commission.
“What we are campaigning for is greater awareness of the problem and of effective strategies to tackle bullying. Cyber-bullying is now a serious issue and sadly has caused a number of suicides. Beyond facebook and twitter, new social media sites are becoming popular and each are arenas for bullying and abuse to occur.”
“All forms of bullying are unacceptable but those based on autism are particularly damaging.”
“At very little cost, the EU can also play a role in sharing best practice to help ensure that victims are given the best support and bullies made to change.”
Kevin Healey said: “It is great news that the Declaration is now live for signature. We need to persuade as many MEPs as possible from all parties to back it. Governments and the European Commission need to realise that the problem is serious and that more action is needed.
“As a person living with autism and a victim of cyber-bullying, stalking, impersonation and death threats, I’m fighting for action 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. This declaration is important as it will encourage EU countries including Britain to adopt effective laws against hate crimes.
“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: “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 Declaration was formally opened to seek support from all 766 MEPs on Monday this week.
The text of Declaration 0024 and list of co-sponsoring MEPs can be seen here:
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.
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