SN-278The Safety Net project aimed to prevent the exploitation of people with learning disabilities, by those claiming to be their friends, and deals with issues around ‘mate crime’.

Many people with learning disabilities have ‘friends’ who go on to abuse them. This has led to people losing their independence, financial, physical and sexual abuse, exploitation … even murder.

The project has created awareness of these topics for people with a learning disability, carers, professionals and the wider community.

Safety Net undertook the following:

  • scoped the size of the problem in two pilot areas and nationally
  • kept up to date with developments nationally
  • provided ‘friend or fake’ training for people with learning disabilities
  • raised awareness of the project to others in the community
  • looked for contacts for any similar projects locally or nationally in an effort not to reinvent the wheel.

There were two pilot groups; one in North Devon (project officer Rod Landman) and one pilot group in Calderdale (project officer David Grundy).

The pilot groups worked locally with people who have learning disabilities, the police, community leaders, safety partnerships and local partnership boards. Safety Net recorded the work of the pilot groups so others can use it and we have set up a blog for the 2 project officers to share information more freely on the Safety Net Website.

Safety Net took part in local media campaigns (radio, newspapers, posters, tv) as appropriate.

Latest Safety Net project information:

  • The Advisory Group of interested and relevant people nationally met regularly to support the work of the project.
  • The pilot groups both had several meetings and gathered evidence of exploitation from the local areas. The terms of reference were developed and agreed.
  • The biggest finding, from talking to the pilot groups, is that people with a learning disability struggle to recognise when they are being exploited. There have been cases where a person is being exploited but is convinced that the exploiter is their friend. Most of the evidence of mate crime that we gathered for this project came from third party reporting.
  • Research into scoping the size of the problem locally and nationally and keeping abreast of developments within the areas of hate crime, mate crime, exploitation and abuse is ongoing.
  • The Safety Net website was launched.
  • Friend or Fake? Easy Read Guidance Booklet was produced.
  • Friend or Fake? Trainer’s Resource CD was produced.

Safety Net project has:

  • developed local strategies and protocols to support and protect people with learning disabilities with issues of ‘mate crime’.
  • raised community awareness.
  • developed training for people with learning disabilities about friendship and training to raise community awareness.

Safety Net was funded by the Department of Health

Although this original project has come to an end the work of Safety Net is continuing in Devon and Cornwall. See the new Safety Net Project page for details.



Recent comment received:

  • “I am a Community Learning Disability nurse working with both children and adults. I am impressed with the booklet re hate /mate crime and intend to use this with some of my patients.”

Useful information: