Fairer Scotland

A Fairer Country for citizens with learning disabilities

August 13, 2015 by No Comments | Category Carers

People demonstrate against cuts to disability benefits

We want a new law which will support our Human Rights and protect our legal status so that we can look forward to full inclusion and rights as participating citizens in a genuinely Fairer Scotland.

Steve Robertson (Chairperson of the Board of Directors of People First [Scotland]).

In post-election Scotland, another wee earthquake is required. Something strong enough, at least, to shake, shimmy and shift the long-held attitudes towards us – those citizens of our small nation living with learning difficulties.

At People First (Scotland) we work to support people with learning difficulties to have more choice and control over our lives.

A stigma prevails. It labels us and segregates us from society. It excludes us from our own communities. And it must stop.

Most people believe that, at best, we are ‘poor souls’ and – at worst – that we are a nuisance and a drain on society.

We believe a truly civilised Scotland could find a way to support us in complicated decision making, rather than removing our personal rights to make our own decisions.

We are often the target of abuse, harassment and violence, sometimes on day-to-day basis. Society seems to accept that we’re fair game.

Way back in 2000, we were told that no one should have a ‘hospital as their home’ yet people still live out their lives in hospital conditions within the community. The law which describes us as ‘Mentally Disordered’ (Mental Health Care and Treatment Act 2003) in fact singles us out for this treatment. In a fairer Scotland, we think this law should change.

Different? Special?
The Adults with Incapacity Act 2000 brought forward a set of principles that we welcomed, however several of these principles are commonly disregarded – and current law continues to impose the substitute decision making of Guardianship. This effectively removes all of our rights as citizens, under the guise of protecting us.

We believe a truly civilised Scotland could find a way to support us in complicated decision making, rather than removing our personal rights to make our own decisions.

Sadly, Scottish laws and policies reinforce the prejudice we face. They don’t challenge it. The overarching view on how to deal with us swings between two extremes. Either we are so different that we should be contained, and kept separate, to protect society – OR – society should regard us as so vulnerable, so special, that we must be excessively protected.

The latter means we should attend different schools, remove ourselves from mainstream further education and certainly not be expected [or allowed] to contribute to our societies by developing a career and supporting a family.

Social care, increasingly, seeks to support only a very basic existence for us – rather than giving us the means us to have real and fulfilling lives where we can contribute to our communities.

On top of that, social care is now charged for in the majority of areas. Qualifying for care often depends on whether or not our members are facing crisis. Our own members report that the Self Directed Support Act 2014 has not changed this. To this day, we still have little real choice and control over any support offered, or over most things in our lives.

Our Fairer Scotland
People with Learning Disabilities die around 20 years earlier than other citizens. We commonly have our children removed from our care. Friendships, including intimate relationships, are frequently forbidden or unsupported, denying us our Human Rights and needs on a day to day basis.

We want a new law which will support our Human Rights and protect our legal status so that we can look forward to full inclusion and rights as participating citizens in a genuinely Fairer Scotland.


More information

Website, Carers week
Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

Website, People First (Scotland)
People First Scotland works to support people with learning difficulties to have more choice and control over their lives.

Website, Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability
SCLD is an independent charitable organisation and a strategic partner to Scottish Government in the delivery of Scotland’s learning disability strategy.

Website, Self Directed Support Scotland
Self Directed Support Scotland (SDSS) is a national membership organisation which actively promotes Independent Living by supporting, working with and championing the aims of Self Directed Support disabled people’s organisations.

Website, Learning Disability Alliance Scotland
Learning Disability Alliance Scotland (LDAS) and its members promote the rights of people who have learning disabilities and their families in Scotland.

Website, Values Into Action Scotland
VIAS stands for Values Into Action Scotland. VIAS promotes the rights & equality of people with learning difficulties & individuals on the autistic spectrum.

Website, Independent Living in Scotland Project
The Independent Living in Scotland project is part of a wider initiative by the Scottish Government to deliver equality and human rights for disabled people in Scotland by addressing independent living.


Steve Robertson is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of People First (Scotland) which works across Scotland to support people with learning disabilities.


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