Learning disabilities policy

“… our vision is that every person in Scotland who has learning disabilities, has the right to live longer, healthier lives; be supported to Participate fully in all aspects of society; Prosper as individuals and be valued contributors to a Fair and equal Scotland.”

– Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health

The keys to life

In 2013 the Scottish Government launched ‘The keys to life: Improving quality of life for people with learning disabilities”. This new learning disability strategy recognises that whilst progress has been made in relation to improving the quality of life for people with learning disabilities since the publication of ‘The same as you?’ there is still a significant way to go. The poor health and early mortality of people with learning disabilities is presented as a major challenge for policy makers and service providers in The keys to life. Therefore understanding and tackling the health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities is a priority for action in this strategy. This is reflective of a broader focus on tackling the equality gap across other Scottish policy areas.

In June 2015 the Scottish Government launched their strategic vision and priorities for learning disabilities policy over the next 2 years. The Keys to Life Implementation Framework and Priorities have been explicitly aligned to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and will direct the focus of delivery for learning disabilities policy between 2015 and 2017 across the following 4 areas:

  • A Healthy Life
  • Choice and Control
  • Independence
  • Active Citizenship

As strategic partners of the Scottish Government learning disabilities team the Observatory will work alongside the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability and other partners to support delivery of these goals. 

Keep up to date with progress towards implementation of the learning disabilities strategy by visiting The keys to life website link below.

The same as you?

In 2000 the Scottish Government published a wide ranging review of learning disabilities supports and services in Scotland. ‘The same as you?’ outlined a 10-year programme for service development that emphasised:

  • Citizenship and a place in the community free from harm or discrimination
  • Equality of access to mainstream services
  • Personalisation, choice and control in service delivery
  • Greater investment in high quality, locally based services and supports
  • Partnership working across agencies

For many people though The same as you? provided the final impetus towards the closure of long-stay institutions for people with learning disabilities, changing the locus of care and support from hospital to community. Whilst The same as you? had a strong focus on health and health service organisation and delivery there is no specific  focus on health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities.

In 2010 the Scottish Government began the process of updating and refreshing their strategic focus on learning disabilities and embarked on an evaluation of progress made since the publication of ‘The same as you?’ The evaluation recognised that some progress that had been made in terms of greater inclusion in community life and the availability of more opportunities for people with learning disabilities. However, participants also highlighted that improvements still needed to be made in relation a wide range of areas, including:

  • Access to ‘meaningful’ daytime activities for people with learning disabilities
  • Access to employment, training and other lifelong learning opportunities
  • Access to healthcare services

The Health Needs Assessment Report

In 2004 a Learning Disabilities Health Needs Assessment was undertaken in order to develop the evidence base relating to the health needs of people with learning disabilities. Crucially this report underlined that action needed to be taken to reduce the health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities. The Health Needs Assessment outlined a clear framework for the development and commissioning of services, underscoring the need to address health inequalities; improve service provision; and promote broader understanding of the health needs of people with learning disabilities.