It is important to acknowledge that there is a widely held view that the rights of autistic people and people with learning/intellectual disabilities were infringed prior to coronavirus and have been significantly highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic. People's social care support has been affected by the pandemic and when they have not been fully supported, for many their quality of life will have decreased. Fulfilling human rights is a legal duty. In practice, for autistic people and people with learning/intellectual disability it is about being able to make decisions, have choices and live the way that they want to and access services without a struggle. The PANEL Principles breaks down what a human rights based approach means in practice.
The Scottish Government is committed to deliver a UNCRC Bill which will incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children into Scots law. This will deliver a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children's rights across public services and protect the rights of children and young people in Scotland.
There is a strength of feeling of autistic people and people with learning/intellectual disability that a similar focus is needed to uphold their human rights, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. This issue has been discussed at the Learning Disabilities Cross-Party Group, and highlighted by People First and ENABLE Scotland who have been advocating for a possible Bill of Rights.
Included in the recent report by the Cross Party Group on Autism at the Scottish Parliament and the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, a Commission or Commissioner has been proposed to safeguard rights and could be a way of delivering accountability for autistic people's rights and those with a learning/intellectual disability.
The Scottish Government commissioned an independent review of the inclusion of learning disability and autism in the definition of mental disorder within the Mental Health Act. The Rome Review of the Mental Health Act recommended in January 2020 that: "in future, autism and learning disability should not be defined as forms of 'mental disorder' under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 or in other mental health law. We recommend that autism and learning disability should be defined in a new law. A new law should also be created which aims to protect human rights on the same basis for everyone, to protect the rights of people who are at risk of serious adverse effects to their human rights."
We are deprived of our rights in Education, in Health and Housing, in relationships and family life, in access to work and employment, to equal treatment before the law and in rights to a fair trial and even the right to have legal entity status as citizens.
Human Rights - What we will do:
Action 1 - The Scottish Government is clear that the needs of autistic people and people with learning/intellectual disabilities and their carers are to be actively considered as part of the ongoing independent review of the Mental Health Act. This legislative reform work will help inform the shape of our future legislation.
Action 2 - The Scottish Government will explore further the proposals for a commission or commissioner to help protect people's rights.