Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill: consultation

We are committed to protecting, respecting and championing the rights of people with learning disabilities and neurodivergent people. This consultation on proposals for a Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill seeks the views of everyone on how we can do this.

Section 1: Statutory Strategies for Neurodivergence and Learning Disabilities

The Scottish Government and COSLA have previously produced national strategies on learning disabilities and autism respectively.[73]/[74] These strategies were the focus for the development of policies nationally and locally. Following the COVID pandemic, a joint plan was published in partnership with COSLA covering both learning disabilities and autism – the Towards Transformation Plan[75]. We continue to work to this plan pending decisions on the shape and content of the Bill.

Our strategies have been scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament and stakeholders. We commissioned an independent review of the Autism strategy[76] and the Scottish Parliament's Cross Party Group on Autism also published a review called "The Accountability Gap".[77]

There is currently no formal or legislative requirement for either national or local strategies specifically for neurodivergent conditions or learning disabilities.

The Autism Act 2009[78] introduced a requirement for a UK Government strategy for improving services for autistic adults in England, underpinned by legally binding guidance to councils and the NHS in England. This strategy, and associated guidance to public bodies, are issued by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has since published 3 adult autism strategies.

The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP introduced a Down Syndrome Bill as a Private Members' Bill to the House of Commons on 16th June 2021. The Bill completed its Parliamentary journey in April 2022, becoming the Down Syndrome Act 2022.[79]The Act instructs the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to 'give guidance to relevant authorities on steps it would be appropriate for them to take in order to meet the needs of persons with Down Syndrome in the exercise of their relevant functions'. The relevant authorities to which the Act and guidance applies include the NHS, Councils in England, and schools in England. This Act is not yet in force.

Local Strategies

Health and Social Care Partnerships have a duty under the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014[80] to produce a strategic plan. This should include how the needs of the local population will be addressed, including accounting for particular protected characteristics and circumstances.

Whilst we have encouraged local strategies for learning disabilities and autism, HSCPs currently take different approaches. We met with 22 HSCPs between November 2021 and November 2022 to discuss local approaches. At that time, of those 22 HSCPs, 16 had an autism strategy and 12 had a learning disabilities strategy. Several more did have strategies in development. There was only one joint strategy. Individual strategies can be found on the different HSCP websites.

What can the LDAN Bill do?

We are proposing to take a broad approach covering learning disabilities and neurodivergence.

We recognise that approaches to previous strategies and polices have been single condition focussed even though many people have more than one condition. Although there will always be a need for some distinct policies according to certain conditions, we think a wider approach is more appropriate in terms of recognising the whole person rather than single conditions and recognising the crossover in the way services and supports are delivered. This includes the workforce delivering them.

There should also be a clear recognition that neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities should be treated equally whatever condition or combination of conditions they have.Therefore, we could:

  • Proposal 1: Introduce a requirement for a national strategy on learning disabilities and neurodivergence to be produced by the Scottish Government.
  • Proposal 2: Introduce a requirement for local strategies to be produced by some public bodies, for example health and social care partnerships, local authorities, and other public bodies.
  • Proposal 3: Introduce guidance that could cover a range of topics to be included in national and local strategies.
  • Proposal 4: Ensure that there is a requirement to review strategies, for example every 5 years.
  • Proposals 5: Ensure that people with lived experience have to be involved in the development of the strategies.
  • Proposal 6: Consider whether any new accountability mechanism introduced by the Bill should have a duty to review national and local strategies and their effectiveness.


Email: LDAN.Bill@gov.scot

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