Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill: consultation

Closes 21 Apr 2024

Accountability

Throughout our early work we have heard many different views on how people think their rights can best be enforced.  One thing most people with learning disabilities and other neurodivergent people agree on is that they often have trouble knowing what their rights are and being able to properly access their rights. Most people would like to see more accountability to make sure rights are not ignored.

When thinking about accountability, people like different models – some people want to see a new body to enforce rights and some people want to see greater accountability within existing public bodies or a specific role within an existing human rights body, such as the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

What can the Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence (LDAN) Bill do?

The Bill can be used to ensure that there is improved accountability for the delivery of rights. There are different ways to do this and we have set out some options.

Option 1: A new Commission or Commissioner

A Commission or Commissioner could be set up to help people secure their rights. A Commissioner is one person whereas a Commission might have a board with several people on it.   

Either of these would be set up to be independent of Government and its powers and duties and appointments process could be set out in the Bill. These could include the following: 

  • Consult and involve neurodivergent people and people with a learning disability in the appointments process and work programme,
  • Promote human rights,
  • Conduct research,
  • Hold the Government to account,
  • Hold public bodies to account by conducting inquiries and formal investigations,
  • Power to bring court proceedings,
  • Publish an annual Strategic Plan and financial accounts,
  • Collate and publish data and report regularly to the Scottish Parliament on key outcomes for neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities,

Option 2: Better resourcing and additional duties for an existing Commission or Commissioner

Neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities already come within the remit of the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC), the European Convention on Human Rights (EHRC), the Children and Young People’s Commissioner and other more specialist bodies like the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (for public service complaints) and the Mental Welfare Commission.   

However, these bodies cover the needs of a broader range of people than those with neurodivergence or learning disabilities.  This means that they have to take decisions on where to spend their resources and time and prioritise some issues over others. We know that the needs of people with learning disabilities and neurodivergent people are often not being met even though these bodies are doing many good things. But there is not a specific focus on these groups.

Rather than setting up a new body we could look to our existing bodies and provide additional resources and potentially powers and duties that would allow them to play a more comprehensive role in upholding the rights of neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities. 

We would need to decide which body could best do this. The Bill could amend the legislation that established the body chosen.

Option 3: Champions and Advocates within Public Bodies

Scotland has many public bodies whose roles are central to the experiences that neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities have in their daily lives as they have responsibility for administering many key areas of life such as education, health and social care, and justice.

This option could involve having people with lived experience of neurodivergence or learning disabilities, or people selected by people with lived experience of neurodivergence or learning disabilities, raising awareness of rights within public bodies and promoting a culture where the rights of neurodivergent people and people with a learning disabilities are upheld.

Public bodies include local councils, healthcare providers like the National Health Service (NHS), the Police and many other bodies.

We could explore the potential for the Bill to make provision for this role to be appointed within all Scottish public bodies and could clarify the remit and appointments process. 

Option 4: Better resourcing for existing Disabled People’s Organisations who support neurodivergent people and people with a learning disability

When we refer to Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), we mean those organisations that are led by disabled people themselves. They are directly connected to the communities that they support. 

In Scotland, many DPOs receive funding from local councils or the Scottish Government.  DPOs include Autistic People’s Organisations (APOs) in Scotland (there are several) and People First, which is an organisation led by people with learning disabilities.  

This option would mean better resourcing of existing DPOs to allow them to support and advocate for the rights of neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities.  

Although the Scottish Government and other organisations already fund DPOs, including some APOs and People First, funding can be limited or directed at particular projects or policies.  We know that DPOs work very hard on behalf of the people they represent and have knowledge and understanding of the issues that often come from their own experiences. 

Option 5: Supporting good practice through standards, guidance and practical tools and investing in co-production

This could involve us working continuously with people with lived experience (like the Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP)) to produce national standards and guidance to help people understand the needs and wishes of neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities and uphold their rights. 

It could include providing guidance to schools, universities, councils, healthcare providers, the police, and others. However, we already do this kind of work and there are still many serious issues experienced by people with learning disabilities and neurodivergent people. This guidance, and accompanying tools, could help people within these organisations understand how to respect the rights of neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities. 

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 the 5 options set out above do you think would best protect, respect and champion the rights of neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities? You can select multiple options if you wish.
Please give the reason for your choice(s).
Are there any other options we should consider? Please give details.