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‘Mate crime’ initiative launched to help protect vulnerable people

A team of Scunthorpe health staff have launched a project to help protect vulnerable adults online.

RDaSH Senior Support Worker Marie Rhodes (left) and Community Learning Disability Nurse Louise Burnell (right).
RDaSH Senior Support Worker Marie Rhodes (left) and Community Learning Disability Nurse Louise Burnell (right).

The Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) North Lincolnshire Community Learning Disability Team, which is based at the Ironstone Centre, will be raising awareness of a growing problem facing vulnerable people who use social media called ‘mate crime’ – where people pretend to befriend a vulnerable person, while secretly stealing from or abusing them.

RDaSH Community Learning Disability Nurse Louise Burnell said: “Mate crime is actually hate crime against people with a disability.

“It often starts when someone befriends a person with learning disabilities through social media or chat rooms, who then uses the relationship to abuse or exploit them financially, physically or sexually.”

She added: “With increased access to mobile phones and social media, this horrible crime is sadly becoming more common.”

Louise and two of her RDaSH colleagues Clinical Psychologist Pieta Bruen and Senior Support Worker Marie Rhodes will be working with staff across the service, as well as Humberside Police and other key partners to train staff in how to how to spot the signs of mate crime and offer advice on how to deal with people who are experiencing it.

She will also setting up workshops for people with learning disabilities, their families and carers to raise awareness of the risks social media and chat rooms.

Anyone who is concerned they or someone they know may be experiencing mate crime, or who would like to attend the workshops can contact the RDaSH Community Learning Disabilities Team on (01724) 298222.