Slow learners are target for school bullies routinely bullied Nine in ten slow learning pupils bullied

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PEOPLE WITH learning disabilities are routinely teased, spat at, bitten, beaten up and robbed, according to a report published today. Nearly nine out of ten said that they had suffered bullying within the last year.

Two-thirds were victims on a regular basis, says Mencap, the Royal Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults. More than one-quarter had been harassed at home.

Mencap says that with long-stay hospitals closing, more people with learning disabilities are living in the community. But so-called normal people have failed to adapt.

One of 900 respondents, a Yorkshire woman, said that stones were thrown at her windows and a fishing line was put across her front gate. "They said people like you should be put down at birth," she said.

One 52-year-old Londoner said that he had been attacked after visiting a post office:"I was pushed to the floor and knocked in the face. One of the people put a knife to my ribs, pushed me about and stole money from me. I felt very unwell, scared and frightened."

A 48-year-old woman, also of London, said that she continually faced bullying: "Sometimes when I am out people laugh at me because of my disability and shopkeepers are rude if they can't understand me, or if I take time sorting out my money."

Mencap's report, Living in Fear - the first comprehensive study of the issue - says bullying had a devastating impact on victims, causing depression and withdrawal. They also lacked self-confidence and had bouts of irrational anger.

Harassment often came from youngsters, who viewed the handicapped as an easy target, the report says.

Fred Heddell, the chief executive of Mencap, said that the amount of bullying was shocking. "It is appalling that many of them are even scared to enter public places because of the fear of harassment. The community has to be helped to confront its own prejudices so that everyone can live together without daily discrimination," he said.

The study found that 88 per cent of respondents had been bullied in the last year, 32 per cent on a daily or weekly basis and 66 per cent more than once a month. Some 25 per cent had been harassed on buses, 30 per cent at day centres and 26 per cent had faced bullying at home.