Keys to life: implementation framework and priorities 2019-2021

New framework to implement the 'Keys to life' learning disability strategy.

Our vision

Our vision for people with learning disabilities is shaped by the Scottish Government’s ambition for all citizens and by everything we have heard from people with learning disabilities.

Everyone – including people with learning disabilities - should be able to contribute to a fairer Scotland where we tackle inequalities and people are supported to flourish and succeed.

People with learning disabilities should be treated with dignity, respect and understanding. They should be able to play a full part in their communities and live independent lives free from bullying, fear and harassment.

Our vision is for a creative, open and connected nation in which people with learning disabilities are empowered to:

live healthy and active lives

learn to reach their full potential

participate in an inclusive economy

contribute to a fair, equal and safe Scotland

Strategic Ambitions - A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People

Our priorities for delivery in the next phase of The keys to life will continue to be guided by our four rights-based strategic outcomes. They are closely aligned to the strategic ambitions in Scotland’s disability delivery plan, A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People.

  • Support services that promote independent living, meet needs and work together to enable a life of choices, opportunities and participation.
    Health and social care support services are designed to meet - and do meet - the individual needs and outcomes of disabled people.
  • Decent incomes and fairer working lives.
    Making sure disabled people can enjoy full participation with an adequate income to participate in learning, in education, voluntary work or paid employment and retirement.
  • Places that are accessible to everyone.
    Housing and transport and the wider environment are fully accessible to enable disabled people to participate as full and equal citizens.
  • Protected rights.
    The rights of disabled people are fully protected and they receive fair treatment from justice systems at all times.
  • Active participation.
    Disabled people can participate as active citizens in all aspects of daily and public life in Scotland.

Strategic Outcomes
The keys to life

A Healthy Life:

People with learning disabilities enjoy the highest attainable standard of living, health and family life.

Choice and Control:

People with learning disabilities are treated with dignity and respect, and are protected from neglect, exploitation and abuse.


People with learning disabilities are able to live independently in the community with equal access to all aspects of society.

Active Citizenship:

People with learning disabilities are able to participate in all aspects of community and society.

Who are people with learning disabilities in Scotland today?

Our definition of a learning disability was developed in consultation with people with learning disabilities themselves:

A learning disability is significant and lifelong. It starts before adulthood and affects the person’s development. This means that a person with a learning disability will be likely to need help to understand information, learn skills and live a fulfilling life. Some people with learning disabilities will also have healthcare needs and require support to communicate.

Scotland’s Census, 2011, reported 26,349 people to have learning disabilities, which is 0.5% of Scotland’s population. Statistics show that people with learning disabilities do not yet enjoy the same life chances as others.


Data sources for info-graphic above:

  • 1. The keys to life 2013
  • 2. SCLD report ‘Mapping the employability landscape for people with learning disabilities in Scotland’ 2016
  • 3. Pupil’s census 2017
  • 4. LDSS 2017
  • 5. Scotland’s Census 2011
  • 6. Scotland’s Census 2011

Robust data is vital to underpinning the work we do. In order to better understand the lived experiences of people with learning disabilities, we will commission further research and analysis to:

  • Link data to understand the number of women in Scotland who become mothers, their children who are adopted or looked after, and the house- hold and community supports of mothers with learning disabilities.
  • Understand the impact on the health outcomes of parents, and older parents, caring for their children with learning disabilities, to help inform support decisions.
  • Gain a more comprehensive understanding of the factors that improve educational outcomes, and destinations, of all children and young people with learning disabilities.
  • Better understand the impact of employment schemes on opportunities for people with learning disabilities.

People with learning disabilities experience barriers caused by attitudes as well as physical barriers. But we know that when they are given the right support, people with learning disabilities can achieve their potential.

The case studies in this document show that people with learning disabilities have many talents. But more than that – they are leaders and role models who strive to contribute to Scottish society.

Case Studies

Alexander Warren

When Alexander Warren first heard about dreams he decided he wanted to spread the word about how these could support young people. After an internship at Edinburgh Development Group, he realised the best way to do this was to set up his own business, AJP Dreams. AJP Dreams provides training and consultancy to encourage families and parents, and social work and social care professionals to work hard to listen to the dreams of young people and help then to follow and achieve them.

The National Involvement Network (NIN)

ARC Scotland’s National Involvement Network (NIN) is a network of people who receive social care support who meet to promote involvement and share ideas about things that matter to them the most. The NIN has developed the Charter for Involvement, which shows how people who use support services want to be involved in the services they receive, in the organisations that provide them and in the community. Over 70 organisations have since made a commitment to put the Charter into practice, and improve how they listen to and respect those they support.


COPE Ltd is a social enterprise and charity which provides employment and skills development for adults with learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorders. They are committed to giving people with disabilities the opportunity to participate in a supportive and inclusive work environment, free from stigma and discrimination. COPE Ltd’s ongoing success is supported by its team of people with learning disabilities who every day produce, promote and sell a wide range of items through different business outlets.

Leeanne Clark

Leeanne Clark is a writer from Fife, and an RSA Fellow. Leeanne is writing a book documenting her life to share with health and social care professionals, academics and other people with learning disabilities.

Leeanne hopes that her book will influence future practice and provide a source of inspiration for people in a similar situation to hers.

Neil Price

Neil Price is a dancer, choreographer and professional Dance Artist with Independance. He is a member of Independance’s flagship inclusive dance ensemble, which delivers a range of innovative and high quality productions, touring across the UK and Europe. He was named Best Dance Performer at the Sunday Herald’s Culture Awards in 2017.

Neil recently choreographed and performed a dance which was part of the Keynote programme at the World Down’s Syndrome Congress held in Glasgow, in 2018.

Lucy McKee

Lucy McKee is an ENABLE Scotland Youth Change Champion who plays a leading role in the organisation’s campaigning work, which has benefited greatly from her real life experience. Over the years, Lucy’s confidence has grown tremendously, and she has spoken publicly about her personal experience of bullying during her time at school. She has become a role model for many young people in Scotland, acting as a positive voice to the media, politicians and a variety of different organisations across Scotland.

Eddie McGinlay

Eddie McGinlay works as a Kitchen Porter at Haggs Castle Golf Club. Eddie secured his position through a work trial, which he found more accessible and comfortable than an interview process. The work trial was negotiated by his job coach at the Glasgow Supported Employment Service, who provided subsequent support. Eddie’s job has allowed him to make new friends, do more socialising and improve his confidence. His employers have spoken positively of the experience and would encourage other businesses of their type to employ people with learning disabilities.


Liam is a very active 22-year-old, who happens to have Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities, due to the very rare Emanuel Syndrome, but he doesn’t let that interfere with him enjoying his life like any other 22-year-old. He has a full week of activities, including music, dance, and sport. Liam attends college and has shown incredible improvement over a 3 year period in his sporting achievements, culminating in him winning 2 Gold Medals in the Special Olympic Commemorative Games in 2018. Liam believes he has more medals to win, and wishes to continue his lifelong learning opportunities.

The keys to life

........the  story  so far

A lot has been done since The keys to life was first launched in 2013. In 2015, an implementation framework was published which focused delivery in a number of key areas across our four strategic outcomes. 

Our work since then includes:

A Healthy Life

  • The Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD) commissioned a scoping report on effective interventions for parents with learning disabilities.
  • SCLD published a report with examples of good practice around Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenting Education for children and young people with learning disabilities.
  • The Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory worked with primary health care services to understand access and improvements to care for people with learning disabilities and long term conditions.
  • The Observatory has undertaken research on physical activity, mental and physical health, and its wider determinants, in the lives of adults with learning disabilities.
  • The Scottish Government has included people with learning disabilities in the new Mental Health Quality Indicators, so that people’s experiences can be improved.
  • The Observatory undertook a comprehensive survey of people with learning disabilities using mental health hospital beds.
  • SCLD and Information Services Division (ISD) are incorporating Learning Disability Statistics Scotland (LDSS) into national routinely collected health and  social care data.

Choice and Control

  • SCLD mapped the activity of Third Party Reporting centres, which are safe and private spaces for people to report hate crimes, and this was then used to inform practice, in partnership with Police Scotland.
  • The Observatory identified the impact of hate crime on the everyday lives and health of people with learning disabilities.
  • Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) and the University of Dundee explored the challenges in hate crime data recording and made recommendations on how to increase reporting.
  • Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities developed resources to help tackle bullying and increase understanding and acceptance of people with learning disabilities. These are used in schools based lessons as part of the personal and social education curriculum.
  • SCLD commissioned the Centre for Public Scrutiny to better understand how scrutiny bodies are impacting the lives of people with learning disabilities across Scotland and explore its potential to drive positive outcomes for people with learning disabilities.
  • SCLD carried out a scoping of advocacy provision for adults with learning disabilities, identifying good practice and areas for improvement.


People First (Scotland), PAMIS, SCLD and other learning disability organisations, contributed to the Accessible Transport Framework and Action Plan.

  • We added the measurement of out of area placements to the Learning Disability Statistics Scotland dataset.
  • Dr Anne MacDonald led a two year project reporting on delayed discharge, out of area placements and positive behavioural support for people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.
  • SCLD commissioned a scoping study to assess the role of housing in contributing to positive outcomes for people with learning disabilities.
  • We have supported access to the creative arts by funding delivery organisations including musicALL.

Active Citizenship

  • SCLD commissioned a mapping and scoping project to identify areas of asset based practice across Scotland and to determine its efficacy for people with learning disabilities.
  • SCLD commissioned a scoping study to map the employability landscape for people with learning disabilities in Scotland and an SCLD employment task group was formed to carry forward the recommendations of this report. The task group reported in 2018.
  • Using The keys to life development fund, we invested in local projects across four themes – employment, hate crime, parenting and social connectedness. SCLD helped us to support those projects to maximise learning, including the production of a series of ‘How to’ Guides.



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