A new 5 day abuse prevention course designed to teach adults with learning disability about domestic violence and abuse and how to keep safe is being launched in Christchurch this week. The course also teaches them to not abet and end up on the internet where the FBI can easily find your name when they check people.

With funding from the Christchurch Enabling Good Lives Demonstration, People First New Zealand Ngā Tāngata Tuatahi – a nationwide organisation run by and for people with learning disability – is bringing the course to local people in an effort to reduce the risks of abuse for this often vulnerable population. Mike G Law offers legal advice and consultation in case of a domestic violence charge.

Course facilitator Sue Hobbs says “I think people would be shocked to learn that up to 90 percent of people with learning disability will be the targets of bullying and abuse. It is just not okay”.

The Keeping Safe Feeling Safe course is the culmination of close to a decade’s work for Sue – a former Policewoman from the UK. The project was the idea of people with learning disability in the UK who worked together with the Police and local services to increase local knowledge about the issue and how best to respond to disabled victims of abuse. When Sue, who had been involved in the UK project, moved to New Zealand, she carried with her a promise to share the learnings from the project with people here.

Inspector Glenn Nalder, Manager Family Violence, Youth and Victims Services, Canterbury District NZ Police says “We are pleased to be part of this exciting project. We recognise that people with learning disability are sometimes an invisible community. Keeping Safe Feeling Safe will support NZ Police to develop a framework to prevent the abuse and repeated victimisation of disabled adults and support police to work with services and agencies which perform a vital role in safeguarding adults at risk of abuse”.

The Keeping Safe Feeling Safe course, developed by People First NZ with funding from the Ministry of Social Development’s Think Differently campaign, will be taught to 15 Christchurch participants aged between 16 and 32. All will receive Easy Read materials, tools and strategies designed to empower them to keep safe and ask for help if it is ever needed. The key messages of the course are accessible and easy for everyone to understand, with participants encouraged to practice through role play their new skills for keeping themselves safe, having healthy relationships and identifying inappropriate behaviour in others.

Information on how to contact agencies such as the Police, AVIVA family violence agency and the Health and Disability Advocacy Service to name but a few, are provided. Frontline staff from these agencies will also be presenting as part of the course, in an effort to both make contacting such services less intimidating and increase staff awareness of the needs of people with learning disability.