Learning disabilities policy

Towards Transformation

In March 2021, the Scottish Government published ‘Towards Transformation’, a new plan for learning/intellectual disabilities and autism in Scotland.

This new 2-year plan sits alongside the existing Keys to Life Strategy and the Scottish Strategy for Autism, and is a partnership document with COSLA and a range of stakeholders.
The plan has been shaped by evidence around the changes and challenges to the health and wellbeing of autistic people and people with learning/intellectual disabilities during the Covid 19 pandemic.

This joint plan is for autistic people and also people who have a learning/intellectual disabilities, and their family and carers. It is also for local authorities, integration authorities, NHS and third sector support providers. Therefore, this plan is for anyone with a role to play in implementing changes that improve outcomes for autistic people and people who have a learning/intellectual disabilities, and their family and carers.

The plan is broad in its aims, with a focus on the following themes:

  • Human Rights
  • An Equality Impact Assessment
  • Working towards transforming lives 
  • Mental health, health and social care
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Digital Exclusion
  • Communication

The Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory is a strategic partner of the Scottish Government Learning Disabilities and Autism team and will continue to work alongside the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities to support delivery of this plan.

Find out more about the Towards Transformation plan.  

The keys to life

The keys to life is Scotland’s learning disability strategy. It is a long term strategy based on a commitment to human rights for people with learning disabilities. Launched in 2013, it builds on the success of ‘The same as you?’, the previous strategy which was published in 2000 following a review of services for people with learning disabilities.The strategy was developed by the Scottish Government with COSLA and a wide range of statutory and third sector partners together with people with learning disabilities and carers.

In 2019 the Scottish Government launched ‘The keys to life: Unlocking futures for People with Learning Disabilities Implementation framework and priorities 2019-2021. The focus of delivery for learning disabilities policy for the next two years will be across these four areas:

  • Living
  • Learning
  • Working
  • Wellbeing

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.