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Research suggests people with learning disabilities in Scotland feel ‘invisible’

NOTE: Under embargo until 00:01am Wednesday, 20 October, 2021


Research suggests people with learning disabilities in Scotland feel ‘invisible'


People with learning disabilities in Scotland are being let down due to lack of effort to understand the scale of the issues they face, a new report suggests.

Research carried over 15 months by the University of Strathclyde's Fraser of Allander Institute reveals that adults with learning disabilities feel mostly invisible and ignored when it comes to the Scottish Government and policy.

At the root of this is the fact that very little data exists on the lives of people with learning disabilities, and so they are often overlooked and ignored in policy discourse.

There is no data even on the number of adults that have a learning disability in Scotland. Although incomplete datasets do exist, these under-report the true size of the population.

The Institute's report Invisible no more - Recommendations to build evidence-based effective action for people with learning disabilities in Scotland', is the latest in a programme of work by the FAI into how adults with learning difficulties are looked after in Scotland.

It comes up with a set of six recommendations to improve learning disability policy, including the need to improve the data to enable understanding of the requirements of people throughout their life.

Another recommendation outlines include having a robust baseline of financial support available now and monitoring the new National Care Services as it is implemented, to understand what impact the landmark reform will have on social care for people with learning disabilities across Scotland.

Opportunities for access to paid work were also a key part of most discussions researchers had with adults with learning disabilities. Not all are able to work, but focus groups overwhelmingly spoke about barriers to paid work.

Schemes that provide training and job placements were recommended, along with an audit of current employability support schemes for people with learning disabilities and of the routes that people come through to access them. These would enable local employability partnerships to understand what they have to build on and to identify any gaps in provision.

A further recommendation is getting the right support in place for young people as they move from child services to adult services, in health, social work, and other public services.

Emma Congreve, who leads the Institute's work on poverty, inequality and inclusive growth, said: "Transitions do not need to be difficult if they are well planned and well managed. However, from our research, we have heard that this is rarely the case. Words such as ‘cliff edge' and ‘black hole' are frequently used, and many young people feel abandoned and disappear from the radar of support services.

"A better joining up of services is a key part of how to improve this period of people's lives and there are opportunities with upcoming reforms to actively make sure this happens."

The last 18 months have exposed many of the inequalities already latent in our society. People with learning disabilities were more likely to become seriously ill and die from COVID-19, and have had their lives and human rights removed to a far greater extent than most others.

A final recommendation is for an audit of the damage done during COVID, both in terms of the impact on services provided and the experience of life for people with learning disabilities and their families to inform post pandemic recovery.

Emma Congreve added: "From what we have heard during our research, Scotland has a lot to prove before people with learning disabilities feel like they matter and that the realisation of their rights matters to society.

"Taken together, these recommendations should lay the foundations for better policy, which has a huge potential to improve lives. People with learning disabilities have felt invisible for too long.

"There are opportunities for change that must be grasped if the Scottish Government is serious about ensuring that people with learning disabilities and their families can realise their rights and live as an included and valued part of Scottish society. "



Notes for Editor: For more information please contact Lynn McPherson at the University of Strathclyde E. T. 0141 548 4941.

Picture caption: Emma Congreve from the Fraser of Allander Institute
Attachments:  Report: Invisible no more - Recommendations to build evidence-based effective action for people with learning disabilities in Scotland'