Putting engagement and human rights at the forefront of its response, SCLD is ensuring people continue to be represented.
The Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCLD) aims to be a knowledge hub, bringing together practical support for people with learning/intellectual disabilities as well as promoting good practice and policy work in the field. SCLD also seeks to defend and promote the human rights of people with learning/intellectual disabilities. Like every organisation at this time, SCLD is adapting quickly to COVID-19 conditions across its work. Responses range from engaging with people with learning disabilities to offer support, the human rights response and approach and ensuring people’s voices are heard at a policy level.
Acknowledging the particular challenges faced at this time by people with learning/intellectual disabilities in terms of having access to information about COVID-19, the team at SCLD put into action a knowledge sharing hub (this link will take you away from our website) providing a place for useful disseminated facts relevant to those they work with. This filters through the vast array of information that is out there, making it easily accessible and presented in a concise way for those who will benefit from access to it. Working alongside the Scottish Government, the team have put a focus on sharing essential information around social distancing and shielding (this link will take you away from our website) which has seen high levels of engagement online.
Tackling social isolation among people with learning disabilities has been high on the agenda and SCLD identified that many people they work with are active on Facebook. A group was quickly created, ‘SCLD stay in touch’, where people can participate in a range of activities and communicate with one another. With over one hundred people accessing the group daily Libby Clement, Digital Communications Officer, says it’s about bringing people together: “It’s about maintaining engagement and keeping people’s spirits up. We get group members to do live videos and our staff members do videos and activities and we also use it as somewhere we can gather people’s experiences.”
In addition, work is continuing with the Scottish Government’s Key’s to life Expert Group (this link will take you away from our website) on learning/intellectual disabilities, facilitated by SCLD, bringing people together to share their experiences to feed into policy work. This is crucial at any time but is particularly important during COVID-19. In order to continue this engagement, the team have moved their work to digital platforms, ensuring that people’s voices continue to be heard while the lockdown is in place.
A key element of work by the SCLD during COVID-19 has been their human rights response, of which publishing a human rights statement (this link will take you away from our website) was a key part. It states that, with regards to emergency legislation from the Scottish Government, “…every effort must be made to ensure that people with learning/intellectual disabilities’ health and well-being is not disproportionately impacted by measures intended to protect and safeguard us all”. In addition, the statement outlines a UN response that references the right to healthcare for groups with protected characteristics, covering those with learning/intellectual disabilities. SCLD reports that this needs to remain front of mind in the ongoing period we are in with COVID-19.
Inequalities exist around people with learning/intellectual disabilities, and on this Kenneth Fleming, Engagement and Influencing Manager is clear: “The underlying human rights concerns aren’t new. They’ve been exacerbated by the pandemic, they weren’t created by it and in coming out of it we need to think about that.” SCLD’s crucial human rights work is being further developed during COVID-19 via a survey of people with learning/intellectual disabilities, families and carers in order to track people’s views on the impact of emergency legislation, and the situation in general, which will inform work in a number of areas in the future.
On a practical level, COVID-19 has impacted on the organisation’s plans for Scottish Learning Disability Week (this link will take you away from our website) 2020 . This year’s theme is ‘My Environment – My place, my planet’ and SCLD has been quick to adapt this for COVID-19 conditions to continue with the engagement by developing resources to help people recognise nature in their own homes and outdoor spaces during lockdown. A sensory story is also being developed for people with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD). All of this allows the organisation to continue its activities while restrictions are in place.
SCLD has responded rapidly to COVID-19 across all areas of its work. By championing human rights and continuing work with engagement groups, the organsiation is ensuring people’s voices and opinions are shared and that the impacts of isolation are tackled. Their work is crucial during this time when people who are often marginalised must be heard from and represented.