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Call for action to support people with learning disabilities in Scotland

girl is sitting in the room while learning new lesson via online

Policymakers in Scotland must do more to support adults with learning disabilities, according to a new report by the Fraser of Allander Institute.

The report finds that whilst the Scottish Government has proclaimed that all people in Scotland should have the opportunity to flourish, the reality is that many people with learning disabilities are being denied this opportunity.

As of 2019, there were 23,584 adults with a learning disability known to local authorities across Scotland. However, the true figure is likely to be a huge underestimate.
Indeed, one of the key challenges in understanding this research area is the lack of even the most basic forms of data. This almost makes this sector and the families involved ‘invisible’ in mainstream debates.

The researchers found that people with learning disabilities have a life expectancy of 20 years lower than the general population in many cases due to preventable illnesses.

Also, they estimate that only 7% of adults with learning disabilities are in paid work, but many more can and want to work.

The researchers also surveyed more than 1,000 adults and found that:

  • The quality of life for people with learning disabilities matters for many people. A third of the public either has or knows someone with a learning disability.
  • The majority of the public agree that people with learning disabilities are citizens who should be able to make their own choices in life.
  • Two-thirds of the public agree that people with learning disabilities should receive financial support for the extra costs that result from their disability.

“In order to have an inclusive economy that genuinely provides opportunities for all, there needs to be a much better understanding of what this means for people with learning disabilities.” said Professor Graeme Roy, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute

“Across the country, there are numerous examples of outstanding work being undertaken to support adults with learning disabilities, whether that be individual government support programmes, the work of charities, or the extraordinary efforts that families and friends put in to support their loved ones.

“But we have been taken aback by how little the challenges people with learning disabilities face – as well as the opportunities available to them – feature as part of general policy debates.

“It is alarming the extent to which people with learning disabilities are swept over. There is an overwhelming sense that people with learning disabilities are ignored when it comes to big decisions that affect our society and economy.

“The pandemic has turned lives upside down and overnight removed much of the support that people with learning disabilities rely on. Better outcomes for people with learning disabilities must be part of any effort to ‘build back better’.”

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