Supporting disabled children, young people and their families: consultation

Consultation on a public resource that will look to provide information across three pillars: rights and information, accessibility of support, and transitions.

1. Rights and Information

The Scottish Government is committed to respecting, protecting and implementing human rights for everyone in Scotland and to embedding equality, dignity and respect in everything it does.

This means ensuring disabled children and young people understand their rights, and feel empowered to claim them, or to speak up when they feel those rights are not being upheld.

We take a human rights based approach to policy which means ensuring that the standards and the principles of human rights are integrated into our policymaking as well as the day to day operations of support that disabled people access.

Where do I access general information about public services? is the Scottish Government website which provides information about Scotland’s public services for all citizens. As outlined in the Scottish Government’s Digital Strategy, will be the single entry point for all services.

Information about laws, policies and the most up to date actions from the Scottish Government can be found on the website,

Inclusive Communication

Developing channels for meaningful communication and self-expression is vital for a child or young person’s development and wellbeing. We need to create environments and opportunities that allow all young people to express their intent to communicate in whatever way they wish and are able.

Everyone communicates differently. Communication is a fundamental human right and is defined as giving and receiving information. It can be any gesture, behaviour, sound or act. Many young people do not communicate using written, spoken or sign language, but they are still communicating. It is important to ensure these young people can access the same rights and opportunities as others.

When we think about how the public sector communicates with people, three key points help us to identify and remove communication barriers:

  • Inclusive communication means sharing information in a way that everybody can understand. The same information may need to be communicated in a variety of ways as everyone has different communication needs.
  • For people who use services, it means getting information and expressing themselves in ways that meet their needs.
  • For service providers, it means recognising that people understand and express themselves in diverse ways.

The Scottish Government has worked with partners to develop the Inclusive Communication Hub which is full of resources aimed to improve inclusive communication across Scotland. Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning ( CALL) Scotland also have a number of helpful resources on their website.

In March 2018, the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 was updated by part 4 of the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016. This update, known as a ‘commencement’, introduced a duty to provide communication equipment and support in using that equipment.

What are some ways my child can communicate?

Augmentative and alternative communication ( AAC) is a form of inclusive communication. It is a term used to describe the range of options that can help people when they have lost their voice, or find speaking difficult, and covers any type of communication that supplements written or verbal communication. There are a number of ways people can communicate without speaking, some involve technology but others do not. It may be beneficial to see a Speech and Language Therapist. You can find out more about them via your local healthboard.

More information? The website Now Hear Me helps people understand the many ways disabled children and young people might communicate. Communication Matters are the UK-wide charity for AAC and have a number of helpful resources on their website.

Case Study, Everyone Together

Delivered by the National Deaf Children’s Society, within the context of GIRFEC, Everyone Together is a national project supporting families of deaf children aged 0-8 years in Scotland. It is offering free training to Health Visitors across Scotland, helping them in their work with families of deaf children.

Each element of the training reinforces a key message: that families must be supported to develop their child’s language and communication skills.

Everyone Together was invited to deliver Supporting Families of Deaf Children to a team of Health Visitors. This training was co-delivered by the Everyone Together Team and the local National Deaf Children’s Society Children and Family Support Officer, who provides support to families within that area. The Children and Family Support Officer had previously been made aware of a young deaf child living in the area who was struggling to acquire language as a result of their family not fully understanding the implications of their child’s deafness.

The family’s Health Visitor approached the Children and Family Support Officer immediately following training to request support for the family. Through improved information-sharing as a result of training, the Health Visitor and Children and Family Support Officer are now working together to provide targeted support, with the aim of helping the family to better understand their child’s deafness and take positive steps towards improving their child’s access to language and communication. The Children and Family Support Officer has also been invited to be part of the Child’s Plan, ensuring that consistent advice and support is offered in relation to childhood deafness.

We recognise that many people who are D/deaf, blind or who have a sensory impairment do not identify themselves as disabled. This resource uses the social definition of disability which assumes that people are not ‘disabled’ because of their identity but because aspects of society, like public transport, schools or services often make it difficult for them to participate fully and that they face barriers in their everyday life because of this.

How are we reducing barriers in Communication?

The Scottish Government is committed to improving the services, support and care available to people who have sight loss, deafness and dual sensory loss. Our long-term strategy, See Hear, commits to ensuring that children, young people and adults have the same access to opportunities and public services as everyone else, including health care, social care, employment, education, and leisure. The strategy was jointly endorsed by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) and is being implemented through local partnerships of statutory and third sector organisations. Local See Hear leads are in place to identify priority areas and drive forward the delivery of the Strategy at a local level.

The British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan 2017-2023 means that D/deaf and Deafblind BSL users will be fully involved in daily and public life in Scotland, as active, healthy citizens and will be able to make informed choices about every aspect of their lives. The Getting it Right for Every Child approach is fully embedded, with a D/deaf or Deafblind child and their family offered the right information and support at the right time to engage with BSL.

What other support is available?

The Scottish Government has commissioned and funded contactScotland-BSL. This is the UK’s first publicly funded online BSL video relay service, which enables Deaf BSL users to contact public and voluntary services, and for these services to contact them. A number of organisations in Scotland have already signed up to use the service, including NHS Scotland, Citizen’s Advice Scotland and The Scottish Children’s Reporter’s Administration. To use this service, you can access it via their website or download their app.

More Information? The Scottish Council on Visual Impairment (SCOVI), and the Scottish Council on Deafness (SCOD) provide information on voluntary organisations which provide advice and support to people with sight loss and deafness in Scotland.

Rights Awareness

What are human rights?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which we are all entitled in order to live with dignity, equality and fairness, and to develop and reach our potential.

Everyone has these Rights, no matter their circumstances.

Nobody can take these rights away from us and they are there to ensure we are protected and treated fairly throughout our lives, regardless of our background.

The Scottish Government participates in UK reporting to the United Nations and the Council of Europe on its international human rights treaty obligations. This ensures that Scotland’s distinctive approach is communicated on a global stage and allows our progress on implementation to be continually monitored.

There are nine core international human rights treaties including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

Disabled people should be able to enjoy their human rights on an equal basis with non-disabled people.

Disabled people continue, in practice, to face a wide range of barriers. The Convention and sets out the measures governments are expected to take to remove them and to ensure that the rights of disabled people are respected. Find out more about what we are doing to remove barriers in Scotland.

Our commitment to the principles of this Convention are set out in the Fairer Scotland for Disabled People Delivery Plan. We also develop easily accessible resources such as this Easy Read version of the Conventions.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC):

Sets out the overarching standards for supporting children. All of its rights are underpinned by four general principles: non‑discrimination; best interests of the child as a primary consideration; the right to life, survival and development; and the right to have children’s views given due weight.

The UNCRC also provides children and young people with a series of individual rights, such as the right to a name and nationality, the right to education, the right to health, the right to play and recreation, and the right to an adequate standard of living – alongside additional rights for specific groups, such as disabled children.

Ministers must listen to the views of children and young people, promote and raise awareness of their rights, and report to the Scottish Parliament every three years on relevant progress. View the Easy Read UNCRC.

These conventions help to protect the rights of disabled children and young people. The Scottish Government has produced a Quick Reference Guide on the Rights of Children and how we legislate to protect them.

How are we supporting the rights of disabled children in Scotland?

The Scottish Government is working hard to realise human rights for adults and children in Scotland, but we recognise that there is much still to do. The Programme for Government published in September 2017 – A Nation With Ambition: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2017-18 includes many new commitments that will advance human rights in Scotland – and will be inclusive of disabled children and young people. For example, the Scottish Government has committed to undertaking an audit to explore the most effective and practical way to further embed the principles of the UNCRC into legislation, policy and practice. There will also be a three year programme to raise awareness of children’s rights among parents, families, communities and public agencies – and crucially, among children and young people themselves. In order to deliver this, we plan to work closely with children, young people and third sector organisations.

In line with Article 12 of the UNCRC we want children and young people’s voices to be heard and respected. It is important to us that all children and young people, including disabled children and young people, influence national and local policy including public services and the decisions that are made which affect their lives.

As part of the development of this resource, a Young Disabled People’s Forum has been established to provide an inclusive space for young people with a disability to come together regularly and engage with the issues that interest and affect them and feed into policy making.

There are a number of national organisations committed to ensuring that human and children’s rights are upheld. For example, the Scottish Human Rights Commission is an independent public body that promotes and protects human rights for everyone. Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) is a group of Scottish children’s charities that works to improve the awareness, understanding and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC).

More information? The website for the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland provides lots of information for children and young people, their families and adults working with them on children’s rights, as well as where to get support.


The Scottish Government is committed to promoting and supporting the rights of all children in Scotland to improve their outcomes. Article 12 of the UNCRC makes very clear that every child has the right to say what they think in all matters affecting them, and to have their views taken seriously. Advocacy helps to make that right a reality for those children and young people who, for whatever reason, would not otherwise be able or allowed to share their views about something. Genuinely listening to young people and including their voice in decision making should help achieve this. Advocacy is a crucial part of supporting a child to express their own needs and views and to make informed decisions on matters which influence their lives.

Advocates do not make choices for children. Instead, they support children and young people to make their own choices.

There are independent organisations which promote advocacy for children and young people’s rights. The Children and Young People’s Commissioner is a person, whose job is to help children and young people understand their rights and to make sure those rights are respected. The office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner has a useful website with lots of resources for young people.

The Scottish Government has published a guide to children’s advocacy which can be used by family members, friends, teachers, support workers and others who may at times advocate for a child. Support services should be mindful that parents themselves may have a need for advocacy in order to express their wishes in relation to decisions affecting their children.

It is vital that the needs of children and young people are given due consideration by local health boards and that national policy reflects a focus on improving the life chances of all of Scotland’s children. Child Health Commissioners aim to ensure that, both locally and nationally, the interests of children and young people are supported and safeguarded.

More information? The Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance ( SIAA) is funded by Scottish Government. It has the overall aim of ensuring that Independent Advocacy is available to any vulnerable person in Scotland. Learn more about the rights of children in the section on Safety And Justice.


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