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A strategic framework for meeting the needs of people with a sensory impairment in Scotland

1. Overview

1.1. The World Health Organization has recognised that children and adults with disabilities, including those with a sensory impairment, have poorer health outcomes, lower educational achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without a disability. It confirms that the prevalence of disability will rise due to ageing populations and the higher risk of disability in older people and other vulnerable populations. For example, children from poorer households and those in ethnic minority groups are at significantly higher risk of disability than other children. It highlights the different barriers that people with a disability face and acknowledges that they do not have equal access to a range of services, to the extent that disability is now increasingly understood as a human rights issue.[1]

1.2. Children and adults with a disability are entitled to have their human rights respected, but still confront barriers to health care, education, rehabilitation, employment, and support services. This is largely due to difficulties in accessing the services available to them and the obstacles they face in their everyday lives, but it is also in large part due to the level of awareness and understanding that society (including many statutory agencies) has in relation to people with a sensory impairment. These difficulties are compounded by the fact that people with a sensory impairment will frequently have experienced a loss of confidence, and will also require assistance and support in how they experience and communicate with the world around them to make their needs and wishes known to others. Families of children with sensory impairment also experience barriers to securing support and advice in the early years.

1.3. The Scottish Government's National Outcomes outline the top level priorities across all aspects of life in Scotland. These include living longer, healthier lives; having strong and supportive communities; giving children the best start in life; improving life chances for children, young people and families at risk; having young people who are successful learners; and having good employment opportunities. These are all in the context of tackling inequalities within Scottish society.[2]

1.4. For those people who need support, the personal outcomes approach[3] identifies those outcomes that are important to people. In terms of quality of life, people say they want to feel safe; to have things to do; to be able to see people; to stay as well as they can; to live where they would like; and not to have to deal with discrimination. To help them achieve these outcomes, people say that they need to feel listened to and to have a say in the support they receive; to be treated with respect, and to have supports and services that respond to their needs and wishes. When this happens, then people expect to see improvements in their confidence, skills and mobility. This applies equally to disabled children who want the same outcomes as other children but need to have their foundational needs addressed first: being able to communicate; being healthy, emotionally and physically; being safe; enjoying and achieving and having autonomy.

1.5. The Scottish Government's Getting It Right For Every Child approach (GIRFEC) defines wellbeing for children and young people in terms of eight indicators; safe, healthy, active, nurtured, achieving, respected, responsible and included, and each one of these indicators is underpinned by a number of outcomes. All children and young people in Scotland, including those with a sensory impairment, should be supported by society including Government, health, education and social work, to pro-actively address their wellbeing needs throughout their lives.

1.6. Implementation of the Getting It Right For Every Child approach throughout Scotland will ensure that all services and agencies working with children, young people and their families take a co-ordinated approach to holistic assessment, planning and service delivery that is appropriate, proportionate and timely, and that children and their families are fully involved in any decisions that affect them. This is irrespective of age, impairment, condition or circumstances and therefore includes all children and young people with a sensory impairment. It is expected that all adult services working with parents and carers will take this approach into account.

1.7. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all children and young people with additional support needs, including those with sensory impairments, are provided with the support they need to reach their full potential. Under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, as amended, education authorities are required to identify, meet and keep under review the additional support needs of all pupils for whose education they are responsible and to tailor provision according to their individual circumstances.


Email: Alan Nicholson

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