Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill: consultation

Closes 21 Apr 2024

Reach and definitions: who should the Bill include?

Who Should the Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence (LDAN) Bill include?

A Bill has to set out who it will apply to and in what circumstances. This means our Bill has to say which groups of people it will apply to.

This is important because it sets out who can benefit from the Bill’s provisions, and who can rely upon it to uphold their rights or seek redress for their rights being breached.

If the people included are not properly defined, the legislation won’t be able to fully benefit the people it is intended for.

What can the LDAN Bill do?

There are 3 different potential approaches for this Bill.

Proposal 1: ‘People who are Neurodiverse’/’Neurodiverse People’

There are differing schools of thought in academic literature about what ‘neurodiversity’, and ‘neurodiverse’ means.

We understand that it is, however, commonly accepted that ‘neurodiversity’ encompasses all of humanity, and does not mean ‘neurological disability’ or ‘otherness’. ‘Neurodiversity’ describes a population, not individuals. A person cannot, therefore, be individually ‘neurodiverse’.

If we use the term neurodiverse in the Bill then it may be too broad.  It will cover the whole population including people who are not neurodivergent - ‘neurotypical’ people - so we don’t think it is a good description to use in the Bill.

Proposal 2: ‘People who are Neurodivergent'/’Neurodivergent People’

We understand that it is commonly accepted that ‘neurodivergent’ means having a mind that functions in different ways to the minds of the majority of people in society.

‘Neurodivergent’ and ‘neurodivergence’ are very broad terms that would allow us to capture a wide range of people within the Bill, including people with learning disabilities, people with learning difficulties such as people with dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, autistic people and people with Down’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). However, the term can also apply to people with acquired brain injuries.

We could also consider how to put some further definitions in the Bill around how we define “neurodivergent” to ensure that it does not become too wide.

Such an approach could allow us to define neurodivergence by reference to common barriers or behaviours faced or expressed by various groups. This would be similar to the approach taken by the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, where a child or young person does not require a diagnosis to be able to receive support.

Proposal 3: including specific conditions only in the Bill

We could take an approach that specifically names and defines populations of people in the Bill. This would increase the visibility of these groups and more clearly state who the Bill applies to for the benefit of those people, as well as for practitioners.

For example, we could choose to apply the Bill only to people with a learning disability and autism; and ADHD and FASD; or any combination of neurodivergent conditions.  However, if a condition was not specifically listed and defined, then that population would be excluded. 

The Bill could include a power that allows future changes to the Bill’s definitions to be made by Regulations, as our understanding of neurodivergence and different conditions evolve. This means that, if certain conditions were left out of the initial Bill, they could potentially be added later, after the Bill has become law. 

There is also a question about whether Down’s Syndrome should be specified separately from broader learning disabilities – we understand that some people will support this and some will not. 

Please tell us what you think.

Related information

Consultation Questions

The questions in this document refer to information contained in our consultation document and various alternative formats which can all be found here

You need only answer questions in the sections most relevant to you.

Which of these proposals do you agree with (if any), please tell us why?
Which of these proposals do you not agree with (if any), please tell us why?
Is there anything else that we should consider in relation to this topic?