People with learning disabilities in Scotland have greater opportunities in the community than 10 years ago but still face significant barriers to living an independent life, research has found. The findings, published by the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability (SCLD), found that people with learning disabilities now have access to a wider range of opportunities in the community, such as going to college and taking part in activities that interest them, including music drama and cooking than a decade ago. Additionally, about a third volunteer regularly. However, the research found that people with learning disabilities and their families still face significant barriers:

  • Few people had paid jobs
  • Many said they would like more opportunities to work and live independently with support
  • People with more complex needs were less likely to have access to a variety of opportunities
  • Most people with learning disabilities still perceived discrimination and prejudice as a problem.

In addition, family carers said that they thought public attitudes towards people with learning disabilities had improved in the past decade because they have become more visible within their communities. But almost half felt that people with learning disabilities were not valued in society. The carers also emphasised the challenges they still face in getting access to the information and support they need.  The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government and forms a key part of the evaluation of 'The same as you?' Scotland's national strategy for learning disability, which was published 10 years ago. SCLD conducted face-to-face interviews with 50 people with learning disabilities and 50 family carers from a diverse range of circumstances for the research. Scottish Government is using the findings as a springboard for its formal consultation on the progress of 'The same as you?' and future priorities for learning disability policy in Scotland. The consultation, launched on May 30, seeks views from key stakeholders across Scotland, particularly people with learning disabilities and their families, on what actions are needed now to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities in Scotland. Dr Lisa Curtice, director of SCLD and one of the research team, said: "By deciding to evaluate its learning disability strategy the Scottish Government has shown that it wants to learn from the experience of the last decade. It is sending out a clear signal that the views of people with learning disabilities and their families count and that these should be the basis of any future strategy.  The lived experiences of the individuals and families interviewed as part of the research along with the responses to the consultation will give a clear message about what we need to do next." Gillian Crosby, a member of the steering group representing the Association of Directors of Social Work's learning disability sub group, added: "The information from the extensive interviews has given us a great deal to think about. It is good to see that individuals feel their quality of life has improved as a result of 'The same as you?' but we now need to address key areas where progress has been less obvious. Employment is one of the areas where we all feel there needs to be a fresh approach; a new way of looking at employment and support is needed particularly with the introduction of the Self-directed Support legislation and the opportunities this can offer." A 4-month consultation on the findings and future priorities for a new learning disability strategy in Scotland can be accessed here. The full findings of SCLD's research can be accessed here.