Mate crimes happen when people with learning disabilities are befriended by someone who uses the relationship to exploit or abuse them.
For example, they might take over a person's flat and treat it as their flat, or they might 'borrow' money or things which they never give back.
The ARC Safety Net project (www.arcsafety.net) was set up in 2009 to research the issue of mate crime, raise awareness, deliver training, and develop resources and local protocols.
The project swiftly became aware of the extent of mate crime, with many ARC members sharing anecdotal evidence. A typical story was of a young man with Asperger’s who had what he called his 'Tuesday Friends'. Tuesday is the day his benefits are paid, and on the same day every week a particular group of people turn up at his flat, 'help' him to the cashpoint and then on to the pub where they 'help' him spend his money.
During the 4 years of the mate crime project we realised that for any kind of crime you could name, someone somewhere had turned it into a mate crime. We have had stories of women with learning disabilities being pimped out by their 'boyfriends', people whose accommodation has been turned into crack dens, even murder. Others have been 'befriended' online and then financially and sexually abused.
To find out more about mate crime and to download free Safety Net resources go to www.arcuk.org.uk/safetynet.