The new learning disability strategy has big aspirations - but they won't achieve themselves.
Following the recent Scottish Parliament debate on The keys to life, I blogged for SCLD on the challenge of making the strategy real. That challenge is, of course, partly about ensuring that there is a clear focus on delivery and outcomes. And it is also about ensuring that delivery is informed by the lived experiences of people with learning disabilities.
SCLD, together with ENABLE Scotland and People First, has been asked by the Scottish Government to lead some thinking on how to make that work in practice. In part the answer is about ensuring that the voices of people with learning disabilities, families and carers are elicited through formal structures; the strategy implementation group and its various sub groups.
But, to be colloquial for a moment, putting bums on seats is only part of the answer and won’t of itself ensure that the challenge is met. The strategy is more than 150 pages long, includes 52 recommendations and it’s envisaged it will take 10 years to implement.
It’s complex, detailed and has big aspirations about improving the quality of life for people with learning disabilities in Scotland. So we need to think creatively about how we can embed lived experiences of learning disability in its delivery. And we need to think about how we do that comprehensively and for the long term.
I think those charged with implementation need to be clear from the outset that coproduction should be high on the agenda. That’s partly about creating inclusive and sustainable conversations, and that includes thinking about which structural mechanisms will work best. But it will involve more than that. Some of the things that spring to mind are:
- Ensuring that discussions about implementation are accessible, relevant and reach the widest possible audiences;
- Creating opportunities for meaningful feedback about the implementation of the recommendations;
- Using research and consultation to shed light on the experiences and perspectives of people with learning disabilities;
- Gathering and synthesising evidence about people with learning disabilities’ perspectives about what works;
- Evaluating the delivery of the strategy and its recommendations on an ongoing basis using inclusive methodologies.
Those already sitting round the table with the Scottish Government, COSLA and others will have a lot of valuable experience to draw on as providers, commissioners, practitioners, academics and so on.
Coproduction, if pursued meaningfully, means drawing on that experience in partnership with people with learning disabilities, families and carers. It’s a way of ensuring that the delivery of the strategy is connected to people’s day to day lives and makes a difference.
By changing the tone and the content of conversations, it influences delivery and outcomes. It won’t always be easy. But it is the key to ensuring that the strategy delivers the positive life outcomes that people with learning disabilities want and have a right to expect.
To help SCLD with the task we have been given, I’m keen to hear from any individuals or organisations who have thoughts about how we respond to this challenge. You can contact me at email@example.com.