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08th June 2015

Keys to life: learning disability strategy in Scotland

In June 2013 the Scottish Government released its 10 year strategy to support people with learning disability . The document 'Keys to life' consists of 52 recommendations intending to further improve the service received by this group of people. As part of preparing for the strategy, the Government extensively involved carers, people with learning disabilities, service providers and commissioners.

The strategy is heavily focused on health issues for people with learning disability. It also emphasises the need for partnership working, co-production through involving people and their families, and gaining more local and flexible support services to sustain people in their own communities.

The Keys to life website lists the main areas covered in the recommendations as:

  • Human Rights
  • Commissioning of Public Services
  • Health
  • Independent Living
  • Shift the culture and keeping safe
  • Break the stereotypes
  • People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities
  • Criminal Justice
  • Complex care

It is good to see the inclusion of an easy-read version of the strategy.

The regulator in Scotland, the Care Inspectorate has carried out a focus in its relevant inspection of how well the strategy is known about and is being implemented in the relevant services. The focus also looked at the outcomes of the Winterbourne review, and how its recommendations were being implemented in the service. This information is being collated, and will form a resource to guide future regulatory work in the relevant services.

Range of talents

Despite its focus on independence, autonomy and choice for people and their families, it is somewhat disappointing to see only fleeting mentions of employment, and mainly of supported employment only. My experience of working with people with learning disability is that they have a much higher level of ability and employment potential than mainstream society recognises. All too often people with learning disability who look for work are rejected out of hand. But there is a range of talents that can be developed in the right circumstances, and I don't mean in menial jobs in the catering industry. I read recently of a young man who has gained a world-wide following on social media of his photography, and his family hope that this may lead to his being financially self-supporting.

The strategy regrettably takes a problem based approach. While it is salutary and welcome to address these problems in current services, I believe dispelling the stereotypes and adopting a positive strength based approach can achieve much. Unrecognised skills in art, music, and people skills, if acknowledged, could help bring about the fundamental changes that are needed.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Tony Clarke

Scottish Care Inspectorate Specialist

Tony began care work as a care assistant in care of the elderly here in Scotland in the 1970s. He very much enjoyed promoting activities, interests and good basic care. After a gap to gain a social work qualification, he worked in management of care services, latterly as a peripatetic manager which gave him experience of a wide range of services.

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