Bid to improve learning disability safeguards

Thursday 8th August 2019

A charity is calling for people with lifelong learning disabilities to be given more legal protection so they are not detained in hospitals or given medication against their will.

People First (Scotland) warns the practice can leave people with serious learning disabilities ‘fearful and angry’ and says a new law is needed to replace ‘outdated and piecemeal’ rules.

In a petition to MSPs at Holyrood, People First (Scotland) states learning disabilities are too often treated as medical issues that can be treated instead of lifelong conditions that need support.

The charity is arguing Scots with learning disabilities should have right to make their own decisions with the necessary support available and to enjoy family life and relationships.

Under the proposals the removal of legal capacity from people with learning disabilities to make decisions about their own life would be banned.

The Scottish Government is currently reviewing the Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 as it looks to improve the rights and protections for people with mental health problems.

In the petition, Keith Lynch of People First (Scotland) says a standalone law for people with learning disabilities will still be needed.

He states: ‘Fundamentally, we object to the continued use of institutional settings and regimes and to enforce medication to manage [anti-social] behaviours.’

The report continues: ‘We assert that keeping people medicated and detained and restricting their movements and expression is much more likely to keep people in a fearful and angry state than to help them relax, enjoy life and become happy.’  

‘…we cannot imagine how systems can change without a new and holistic legal framework in place intended specifically for people with intellectual impairments.’