The support system for adults with learning disabilities in Scotland is not doing enough to help them live “safe, secure and fulfilling lives”, according to new research.
The analysis, by researchers at the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde, says that despite many improvements over the past 30 years, financial pressures have restricted the support that is on offer.
It said that for those with mild to moderate support needs, support that enables them to live a fulfilling and independent life, “has been taken away or charged for”.
The study found the response to the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated many of the issues that have developed over the past ten years, and it is feared much of the support that has been lost will not return, or will be “significantly scaled back”.
As of 2019, there were 23,584 adults with a learning disability known to local authorities across Scotland, however researchers said the true figure is likely to be much higher.
The report said a “person-centred social care system” that can flex to different situations is “crucial” if people are to be able to realise their potential and warns that if not there is a risk that people are kept “locked out” of society.
Graeme Roy, director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, said: “Our research has shown that the last ten years have been challenging and that there is much that could be done to ensure that the right support structures are in place so everyone in Scotland can, at the very least, realise their basic human rights and have the best chance of fulfilling their potential.”
The researchers examined evidence from a range of reports and data in the public domain and combined this with a series of in-depth interviews with health and social care professionals and people with learning disabilities and their families.
The report said that the last 30 years have seen enormous changes in how people with learning disabilities are supported in society, with a shift from people living in long stay hospitals to community-based support.
There have also been new initiatives to improve people’s choice of care, a move to align their health and social care support, and an “ambitious plan” articulated by the Scottish Government that recognised that more needed to be done to help people realise their human rights.
However, the report found that since the financial crisis there has been a loss in some of the non-statutory support available to people, particularly those with mild to moderate learning disabilities, to live their lives independently.
Researchers said the Covid-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the support people with learning disabilities rely on, some of which has been the result of restrictions on face-to-face contact.
There are fears that support will not return post-pandemic at the same level it was before but researchers said the opposite needs to be true if people are to recover from the “harms created over the past year”.
The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.