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Scots learning disabled treatment a "human rights scandal" says charity


Campaign launched to address the problem

A charity has said Scotland’s learning disabled face a “human rights scandal” as they are placed in care hundreds of miles from loved ones due to a lack of suitable accommodation.

Enable Scotland has launched a campaign calling for all learning disabled Scots to have the right to a home they choose and to live in the community of their choice.

#MyOwnFrontDoor is being led by the charity’s 12,000 strong membership and supporter network to address what it describes as a “level of discrimination that we do not expect and would not expect other people in our society to bear.”

Due to lack of support to live in their own communities close to their loved ones, official data reveals that over 1,000 adults have been sent by Scottish local authorities to live ‘out of area’, meaning not in their home local authority area. 

Beyond this, a further 67 people are living in hospital and 10% of these people have been there for more than 10 years.

Despite a Scottish Government report highlighting this issue in 2018, which recommended that better specialist social care support should be available across Scotland to support these individuals to live in the community of their choice, there has been no monitoring of progress, and Enable Scotland fears that the situation has deteriorated further.

 In one case a woman had been in an NHS unit for 60 years and described the situation while another man was offered a placement more than 400 miles away from his family before advocates stepped in.

By the time social workers are aware of an individual who requires support, 
the situation is often at crisis point, Enable said, and decisions are more likely to be made in haste without adequate planning.

Jan Savage, director of Enable Scotland, said: “This is a human rights emergency. It is a national scandal – hidden in plain sight.  People who have a learning disability - brothers, sisters, sons and daughters – are being forced to live far from home, to “live” in hospital, or to live in care settings where they are uncomfortable and unhappy. 

“I am sure that people will be shocked to learn about the situation our fellow citizens find themselves in. But they should be reassured that better is possible.

"Clear and decisive action is now required to adopt a community first principle to end the practice of people being sent out of area; to nationally invest in high quality, consistent, specialist social care support to be available in every community; and to stop building new multi bed units for people who have a learning disability.  These are not the solution – they perpetuate the problem. 

“We cannot wait any longer.  People who have learning disabilities are being subjected to a level of discrimination that we would not, and do not, expect other groups in our society to bear.   

“We are determined that this campaign will start a movement for change as each and every one of us stand up for the human rights of all people with learning disabilities in 2022.

The keys to unlocking their own front door are in our hands.”

John Feehan, an adult who has a learning disability said “It can be so hard to speak up for yourself when you have a learning disability.  It is even harder to make people listen.  That is why I am speaking out.  

“It makes me so angry that other people who have a learning disability are stuck in hospital, or being forced to live far away from their families.  This has been going on for too long now.

Some people think that people who have a learning disability are not able to live in local communities like everyone else.  They think that that it is easier for them to be locked away in hospital, or to live with lots of other people who have a learning disability.  That isn’t true. 

“It is only because the right support is not there – it’s not the person’s fault.  Anyone can live anywhere with the right support.  If they don’t want to be where they are, people need help to get back to live close to their families or to get out of hospital - right now.”



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