A new £100,000 research project into how hate crime is affecting British society has been announced today.
The study, conducted by Victim Support and Co-operative Financial Services (CFS), comes as faith hate crimes and racial incidents soar in the wake of the London bombings.
The number of racially motivated crimes referred to Victim Support has been steadily rising in recent years, with the organisation currently helping about 22,000 people a year.
But the issue has taken on added significance since the July 7th attacks, with Scotland Yard figures released last week suggesting such crimes rose by nearly 600 per cent in the wake of the bombings, compared to the previous year.
Community tensions have also been felt further afield, with police in North Wales recording 64 racial incidents in the 11 days after the attacks, compared to just 20 in the same period last year.
"Hate crime has a destructive effect not just on victims but on whole communities," said Peter Dunn, head of research and development at Victim Support.
"The government and the statutory services have begun to recognise it as a phenomenon, but little is known about how individual victims are affected. We also need to know more about how to support victims effectively and how to combat further victimisation."
He said the project would help deliver better services for the individual victims of hate crime and for the communities it affects, while also helping government with its work.
Today's research project will focus specifically on the experiences of black and minority ethnic people, with a view to developing a national framework for supporting local communities at risk of hate crime and improving the support available to them.
But the researchers believe it will also help in the identification of other groups at risk from hate crime, such as lesbians and gays, disabled people, immigrants and asylum seekers.
CFS head of community and co-operative affairs Chris Smith added: "We understand the impact hate crime can have on individual communities but because no one really knows the breadth and depth of this phenomenon, we have decided to back this important research."