Michael McEwan speaks to Debbie Campbell and Megan Milligan from I Am Me, a community charity, which is focused on raising awareness of disability hate crime in Scotland.
I Am Me aims to change attitudes and behaviours so that disabled and vulnerable people in Scotland feel safe in their communities.
MM - Michael McEwan
DC - Debbie Campbell
Megan - Megan Milligan
MM Now on Iriss.fm I went to I Am Me Scotland to find more about the charity, now I Am Me Scotland is a community partnership charity who is developing in Renfrewshire to raise awareness of a disability hate crime and on this podcast, you'll hear me speaking to Debbie Campbell. Debbie Campbell is the project officer and committee member of I Am Me Scotland, but first up let's hear from Megan Milligan who is the project assistant and she is the secretary from I Am Me Scotland. Tell me what is: I Am Me Scotland.
Megan Well, we are a charity that works in partnership wit Police Scotland to raise awareness of, and tackle, disability hate crime and we've got 2 key initiatives, so there's the I Am Me side of things which is a suite of training and educational resources alongside free films and then there's the keep safe side of things which is where we establish keep safe places in the community for anyone to go if they're feeling lost or scared or if something bad has happened they can go in and get help from the staff within.
MM So, who's idea was it to come up with the charity I Am Me?
Megan Well, it was actually Carol, Carol's our project finder and the project manager and she was watching a programme about a girl called Gemma Hayter, it was called Don't Hate Us and this was many years ago and it focused on disability hate crime and before then she'd never heard of disability hate crime. I mean she'd heard of racism, she'd heard of homophobia, but she'd never heard of disability hate crime so, after the programme Carol was so profoundly affected by it that she decided "Well, I'm going to look and see what I can do to volunteer, what organisations are out there that focus specifically on this." But at the time she couldn't find anything so Carol, being Carol just decided "Well I'll start something." And that's where it came from. She got in touch with the local police and that's where Keep Safe came from, where I Am Me came from and a lots happened.
MM So, tell us what is a hate crime, Debbie?
DC Okay so, a hate crime is anyone that's targeted for • there's 5 strands of hate crime, so, there's disability, there's race, there's religion, there's someone's sexual orientation and then there's their transgender identity, so, if any of those people are targeted because of who they are, so, say for example because of their disability, or because of their race that would be a hate crime because it's perceived that that person hates that person and that is a hate crime but a lot of people they don't think a hate crime is a crime, they just think it's maybe anti-social behaviour or sometimes bullying because they're very, very similar it's name calling, assault things like that but a hate crime is anyone that's targeted because of who they are.
Megan Yeah, any crime that's committed against another person because of their perceived or actual strand so whether or not they're disabled doesn't matter, it's to do with how the situation's perceived.
MM Can you dress up hate crime in any kind of way because I know some people doesn't like the word using 'hate'?
Megan Hate's an emotion ...
Megan ... so it can be really difficult, just now the legislation it's covered under hate crime legislation but I'm aware that's all being reviewed just now but that's mainly Carol that was working on that side of things.
MM Do you know about the statistics over the years, has it went up, down?
DC I think reporting has went down.
Megan Yeah, it's went down this year from last year but hopefully there will be more reports cos it's not that it's happening any less, it's just that it's not being reported. I think it was Mencap that said that there's roughly about 62 or 64,000 incidents of disability hate crime on average every year in the UK but for Scotland last year, I think the number that was carried forward to the procurator fiscal service in terms of report was just 188 so it's really, really under reported.
MM Do you feel as though people are still not aware that they've been called a name and (... unclear) you know it's a case of "What will I do about it?"
DC A lot of people, they don't realise that they've been the victim of a hate crime so that's kind of part of what we do as well so, the I Am Me part that Megan mentioned is all about raising awareness of it. So, people they don't realise that it's actually a crime so it's getting the word out there that if someone does call you a name or they treat you in any way because of who you are that you can contact the police and you can tell the police about that and hopefully something can get done about it.
Megan Yeah, and even if an actual crime hasn't been committed, it can still get recorded as an incident and there's still things that the police can do. It's not just that they would rub their hands and say "No, I'm sorry there's nothing we can do with this, there's no crime, that's it." They will record the incident and they will do what they can to make sure that it doesn't escalate.
MM Looking at your website ... we'll speak about that in a minute or 2 but let's speak about the school work that you do cos I feel as though it's very important going into the schools and delivering kind of like hate crime training, or call it what you will, so, what's involved in that Debbie?
DC Well, this is the second year that we've been doing the school programme so, we've travelled round all the schools in Renfrewshire to raise awareness of disability, bullying and hate crime. So, we have a different resource for every stage so, it goes from nursery to primary 7, they each have a different film or book and they introduce disability and we talk about differences, how we talk about bullying as well and with the older classes, so primary 6 and 7 we talk about hate crime and what hate crime is and how they can report one if they do see it happening but the majority of our programme is delivered on the cinebus. So, the cinebus is a mobile education unit, it's a bus that was gifted to us by Stagecoach and we converted it using the Keys to Life funding and it's now a cinema inside and it's very cool. I might be a bit biased, but I think it's pretty awesome.
Megan It's Debbie's baby, that's why she's biased.
DC So, the kids come on as a class and they watch a film and then we discuss what happened in the film and then we ask if they know any disabilities and then we can talk a bout ones that they do know and we can maybe talk about ones that they might not have heard of and we talk about how disabilities can affect someone's life and how they might have to alter the things they do or they might need some extra help but that's okay because it's just part of who they are and then we talk about bullying, whether it be someone that has a disability that's been bullied or anyone that's been bullied and what they can do so, it's important that they tell an adult, that's the main focus is to tell an adult.
MM I want to go on that bus now.
Megan I know, it's good fun.
DC I know, it's pretty cool.
MM So Megan is the bus open to the public or does it get opened to the schools to go on and watch the video.
Megan It's mainly just for the primary schools just now cos we're fully booked out in the primary schools. So, the bus is spoken for.
DC We've got over 10,000 school kids coming on from August to June so it's very busy right now.
MM And what's their reaction been from the pupils but also their teachers as well?
DC Well, we do surveys with the pupils from primary 5 to primary 7 and we also survey all the teachers that come on the bus and a large majority of it's positive and the kids, I think it's just somewhere new for them to learn so talking to them in the classroom, they're still taking it in but I think the bus gives them somewhere new to be and it's a better environment and it's really fun as well.
MM Megan tell us about the Keep Safe app that you've got.
Megan Yeah well, we have got our Keep Safe Scotland app, it is completely free to download on IOS and Android devices and it's called Keep Safe Scotland. It maps out every single Keep Safe place all over Scotland, so you can plan a route from A to B and it will highlight Keep Safe places in between. You can find your nearest Keep Safe place and then it will link with either Google Maps or Apple Maps depending on what your phone uses to give you directions to it but you can also find out their opening hours, you can go on their website, get their telephone number, or say if you were going through to the likes of Edinburgh or Glasgow for the day, you can go to that area and see what Keep Safe places are there as well just so that you've got more of an idea to plan ahead. There's also the Police Scotland section, so, that's got 3 main sections within it and the first 2 are calling so you can call 101 or 999 through the app. Obviously we would recommend if you're going to phone the police, just phone them don't bother going through the app but it is quite useful to have that there because before you connect the call, it gives you your approximate location, so that if someone's out and they're scared or they're lost, they don't know where they are and they want to get in contact with the police or the emergency services, the app will tell them where they are before they connect that call so that they can let the call handler know. But within the Police Scotland section as well there is the reporting form so, we work with the police to have a shortened version of the hate crime form and it means that the user can go on and fill in this form which really just asks 3 main questions, which is what happened, where and when and they can fill in the details of the crime or the incident, they can leave their details if they want to and that gets sent off to Police Scotland and it's all encrypted and secure so we don't get any details of that at all it's all completely through the police and that's for non-emergencies so it's the same as filling in the form that's on Police Scotland's website just now. It's not monitored 24/7 so if something was an emergency, always phone 999 but it's really quite good to have and then there's another 2 sections of it. Do you want to chat through them?
DC Yeah, of course. So, the other 2 sections is we have the community information section and that links with different local authorities so it either links to their website or it gives information of local news, local events and useful contacts so that could be anyone that they think is useful in their local authority area. Also, the last section is just the I Am Me Scotland section, so, it's just a wee blurb about what our charity do and it also links to our website, YouTube, and social media channels, so it's all just get the word out there as well.
MM So, is I Am Me the main charity for the whole of Scotland or have you got other partners that you work with as well?
DC Well, we work in partnership with Police Scotland so, we're really lucky that we've got that partnership with the police cos it means that we've got a SPOC, they get called, so a single point of contact or SPOCs and that is police officers from every division across all of Scotland. So, we've got our SPOCs in Edinburgh, we've got one in Glasgow, we've got East Ren, we've got them everywhere and anywhere and that's a police officer that's tasked with rolling the Keep Safe initiative out in their area. Because every Keep Safe place has to be checked by Police Scotland and then trained so because we're such a small team, there's only 4 of us, there's no way we'd be able to do it all over Scotland just on our own so, our partnership with the police is really key in making sure that it's rolled out across all of Scotland. We also have the ambassador programme which is where we train young people so from 3rd year of high school and above on how to recognise and report incidents of hate crime in the community and we've also developed it to make it accessible for adults with learning disabilities as well so that's been going quite well. We've got nearly 300 people trained on the ambassador programme in general so it's going really, really well and that's been really positively received but that started off as just a wee thing that we did with Castlehead High School and with St Aloysius College and then we got a great amount of support from the Crown office and Procurator Fiscal services and with the police as well and now that's just kind of taken off too but yeah we're lucky that we've got our backing with the police cos again we've trained them up to be able to deliver it in other areas too because you know if it wasn't for them we wouldn't be able to do as much of the work that we do.
MM Do you feel as though a lot of people know about the charity then because you've been about for so many years?
DC More and more people do know about us but not nearly as much as you would want to especially because we've got all those Keep Safe places there and they're there for anyone if they're feeling scared or lost, they can go in and they can ask the staff for help. The staff can contact someone for them or the staff can phone the police or the emergency services but there's no point having all these places if no one knows about it so we try tell as many people as we can.
Megan We can always tell more.
MM What about the I Am Me film that you showed at the Glasgow Film Theatre.
Megan Yeah, well we showed the I Am Me film as part of a human rights event and Carol was invited along to sit on the panel as you know and that was actually on the same day that we had launched our primary school resource so we've got a free resource on the website and that's got different lessons for every age group and it's what Debbie uses when she's on the cinebus as well but no Carol had just came from that event and went straight to the GFT event as well so, we're kind of finding that we run between things all the time but it is mainly to make sure that more people are aware of what disability hate crime is and that there are places and resources out there for people to use and the more things that we get invited to the better so that we can get word out.
MM And tell us a bit about that, I know I've seen the film, but tell us a bit about what happens in the film and stuff like that.
Megan Well, it's based on a young man called Charlie who has Autism and a learning disability and he's subject to what people would deem as really low level anti-social behaviour and abuse and it builds and builds and builds and culminates in a major incident but while Charlie's not real all the things that have happened to Charlie in the film are real so, it's based on true stories, it's based on things that we've been told from focus groups and it's based on a lot of people that were featured in the equality and human right's commissions report called Hidden in Plain Sight which focuses on disability hate crime because it is hidden in plain sight, it happens all the time and no one does anything about it so, a few stories were taken and a few incidents were taken and incorporated into Charlie's story so that yeah, the film does have a happy ending but a lot of the people that Charlie's story was based on, for them it didn't, it wasn't a happy ending and even though a lot of the things that happen to Charlie in the beginning are low level or what most people would deem as not really a big deal, you get to see the impact that it has on Charlie and it has a huge impact on him leaving the house, on him making friends, on him going to his job and you know even just on him going and doing his shopping it becomes a really big struggle for him so the films quite good because it let's people see the other side of things as well. It's not just a "this person's a bad guy, they've committed a crime and now they're going to go to prison." It's not like that, it actually shows you what happens to the person, so, while you might not think eggs on a window, or littering someone's garden is a really big deal, you don't actually know the full impact that it's having on someone behind the scenes so the films been quite good for highlighting that especially when we watch it with the police or with the young people that we work with.
MM Am I right in saying 2 years ago that won a Bafta as well?
Megan Yeah, yeah Daniel Cameron, the main character that plays Charlie, he won a Scottish Bafta for his performance in it so yeah, it's an educational film but it's a good one.
DC It's a good watch.
Megan It's a good film.
MM But you've also made other short films as well, apart from that, you've made other ones as well.
DC Yeah, we have yeah.
Megan They're part of the primary school resource, so, we have Andy's First Day which is what we watch with Primary 1, and it's about a boy named Andy who has a prosthetic ear. So, it's about how Andy has a disability and he might be a little bit different and he's worried that everyone's going to laugh at him and nobody laughs at him, they actually think it's really cool because he can take his ear off and he uses it as a rubber. All the kids think it's amazing and then we have Judged which is aimed at Primary 5 and it's about a girl named Chloe who has Dyslexia and she doesn't know she has Dyslexia so, it's about the struggle and how her classmates are laughing at her but then she finds out she has Dyslexia and everyone starts to help her and then we have the Primary 6 film which is called Happiness Heroes which we filmed in partnership with Epilepsy Scotland, it's about a boy named Jags who has epilepsy and he gets picked on for that and it's about how it's important not to be a bystander, so it's important if you see something bad happening to stop it or to report it and not just walk away and that's the focus of Happiness Heroes and we also talk about hate crime after we watch that as well and then Lucky Break is our final one and we filmed that in Castlehead High School and it's about a boy named Matthew who starts a new school and has a disability and how he's targeted because of that and it turns into a hate crime but it also follows the story of a girl named Emily who's a young carer for her Gran that has Dementia and how Emily's targeting Matthew because of what's going on at home and it show's both sides of the story and then it also shows the 2 boys that were bullying Matthew getting arrested at the end and then that leads us into talking about hate crime and how you can get arrested for it and it can impact your life, it can impact the jobs you get and the places you go and the kids really enjoy the films. They're really good, they're not the educational boring films, they are good films.
Megan And. they're all available online.
DC Yeah, for free.
MM Well, thanks for your time.