Foreword by the Minister for Mental Health
Unprecedented. It is a word we will forever associate with 2020 – and rightly so. In March, we heard for the first time that message of 'Stay home. Save lives. Protect the NHS.' We are still in the depth of dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, and we will be for some time yet. We remain in response mode, but the recent positive developments around a vaccine mean it is only responsible that we start planning ahead for Scotland's recovery.
I saw first-hand how Scotland changed to deal with the crisis. Everything that we had come to know as 'normal' changed. But what I saw most was the human qualities of compassion and care come through loud and clear from all areas of society. People, organisations and individuals responded to the crisis, supported by those around them who displayed those Scottish values of compassion and care. This was Scotland's response to coronavirus.
What became clear was how vital the third sector and local authorities were in protecting the NHS. The rapid transition to provide critical mental health support to people and families at home, and social care providers supporting people in their homes and in the community, protected the NHS when it needed it most. Allowing people to stay indoors, be safe, healthy, and out of hospital is only due to the heroic commitment and dedication of Scotland's health and social care staff and volunteers.
Similarly, the resilience of individuals and their ability to adapt was also unprecedented. It exposed how much our 'normal' needs to change, so that people enjoy choice and control and are supported to be independent and active citizens.
I am delighted to introduce this 'Towards Transformation' document which looks at the particular needs of Scotland's autistic people, people with learning/Intellectual disabilities, and people who are both autistic and have a learning/Intellectual disability.
In the immediate coronavirus response, I saw how leaders worked together to address issues together. The provisions we made during Covid for third sector organisations with our investment of £450k to combat social isolation and to support national helplines, specifically for the benefit of autistic people, and/or people with learning/Intellectual disabilities demonstrates this. We know that coming together to tackle big issues works.
But I also know how important identity is. Our work on post-diagnostic support for autistic people, and the efforts of Connecting Scotland to reach digitally excluded people with learning/intellectual disabilities proves that our commitment to each of your individual communities continues.
The situation remains unprecedented and significant challenges remain. Mental Health will stay high on the agenda, with the full extent of the impact of the collective trauma of coronavirus still unknown. We cannot predict how our response to the virus may need to change, but we can think about Scotland's transformation. We need to use this opportunity as we rebuild Scotland to decide – what will Scotland's new normal look like?
I hope you will see this plan as the beginning of the conversation about how we change Scotland for the benefit of autistic people, people with learning/Intellectual disabilities, and people who are both autistic and have a learning/Intellectual disability. Transformation is a joint responsibility, only possible with your help – whether you are an individual or part of our third, public or private sector.
Let this be the start of our work together to transform Scotland into a place where the human rights of autistic people, and/or people with learning/intellectual disabilities are respected and protected and that they are empowered to live their lives, the same as everyone else.
Minister for Mental Health