Today (Monday 1 December), Inclusion Europe launched an ambitious new project, SafeSurfing, aimed at training people with a learning disability on staying safe online and data protection.

Inclusion Europe is working in partnership with organisations in four European countries, including the UK’s leading learning disability charity, Mencap.

To launch SafeSurfing, partner organisation Mencap is calling for people with a learning disability, their families and professionals to share their experiences of using the Internet on social media.

From Monday 1 December, Mencap will be posting questions daily on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. 

Identity fraud, cybercrime, cyberbullying – all dangers we knowingly or unknowingly face when simply using the Internet. With 17% of Europeans falling victim to identity theft every year, data protection is a major problem for all European citizens, particularly for people with a learning disability.

People with a learning disability have reported facing many barriers when it comes to using digital technology. However, in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of people with a learning disability positively using technology to live more independently and be more included in society.

Whether it’s keeping in contact with friends, finding information online, or searching for job opportunities, people with a learning disability have said that using the Internet and smart phones can benefit many areas of their lives.

People with a learning disability face greater risks when using the Internet than the general population. The risks they face can be more profound as a result of increased vulnerability, tendencies towards obsessive compulsive behaviour and social naivety.

Ismail Kaji has a learning disability and is a Parliamentary Affairs Assistant at Mencap:

People using online banking and other websites might not know where the information they have given has gone. It worries me a lot and I can’t stop worrying. People online can pretend to be a company and get information from people. This makes me feel unsafe. It is hard, I don't know who to speak to or where to go for support.

I have had emails asking for my personal details. I didn't understand the emails so I signed up. I realised later it was for a subscription and I had to call up and cancel which was very expensive.

I think it’s important that people get good information about how to stay safe online. Top tips and videos about things like online scams could give people examples of what people with a learning disability need to be aware of. I am pleased the SafeSurfing project is happening because people with a learning disability are unsafe online in different ways and this project will be a helpful way for people with a learning disability and those that support them to find out about being safe online.

Inclusion Europe, together with partners including Mencap, believe it is crucial for the people with a learning disability to be provided with the personal support and knowledge they need to decide what information they want to share with others online.

Geert Freyhoff, Inclusion Europe Director, said:

Full inclusion won’t be possible until people with a learning disability are able to enjoy all aspects of life on an equal basis with others. Supporting people with a learning disability in using the Internet safely could have a huge impact on their level of independence, their well-being and their sense of ownership.

SafeSurfing aims to reach more than 1,000 people with a learning disability directly, by using interactive online training sessions that offer participants the possibility of asking questions in real time.

In addition, thousands more people could benefit from the five training videos on several areas of data protection that will be produced and shared by SafeSurfing partners.

From 1–5 December 2014, Inclusion Europe and their project partners will use their Facebook and Twitter accounts to ask people with a learning disability about the risks and challenges they face regarding data protection.

The five organisations will be posting questions daily and want as many people with a learning disability, family members, and professionals to get involved as possible.

You can join the discussion on Mencap’s Facebook page and Twitter page using the hashtag #SafeSurfing:

If you would like to find out more about the SafeSurfing project and get updates, please contact Safe.surfing@mencap.org.uk

-ENDS-

For more information, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 5414 or media@mencap.org.uk

Notes to editors

The SafeSurfing Project is carried out with support from the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union. 

* SafeSurfing partners: Inclusion Europe, Mencap (UK), FEAPS (Spain), PSOUU (Poland), and ANFFAS (Italy).

About Mencap

There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities.

Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.

www.mencap.org.uk  

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email help@mencap.org.uk

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual.

For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.

Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.