Photo of Andy and text reads blog

A world with better wellbeing

Web AdminBlog, News item

As we begin to emerge from the pandemic and move towards fewer restrictions in our daily lives, SCLD’s Participation & Partnership Lead, Andy Miller, reflects on the data gathered from SCLD’s 2019 “How’s Life?” survey and what this means in a post pandemic world…

The Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCLD) has just published its second report from the 2019 “How’s Life?” survey.  The theme is wellbeing, which is not surprising – wellbeing is everywhere at the moment.

The Scottish Government named its refreshed National Performance Framework ‘Scotland’s Wellbeing’. They set up a Third Sector Wellbeing Fund to deliver essential support to people whose wellbeing had nosedived during the pandemic.  Derek Feeley states, in the Foreword to his review of Adult Social Care: ‘We need a new narrative… that replaces crisis with prevention and wellbeing.’ People had told him that social care should be an asset ‘to maximise their wellbeing.’

Maybe it’s more accurate to say that wellbeing is almost everywhere; we called our report Mostly a 10 but sometimes a zero’. As a direct quote from one of the participants, it seemed to sum up some of the report’s main findings.

What the survey showed was that more people with learning disabilities reported high on our Wellbeing scale. It also showed that more reported low on our Wellbeing scale. In other words, people with learning disabilities were more likely to answer at the both extremes of the wellbeing scale than we tend to see in the general population.

Why? Well, here’s the interesting thing — we asked people to score themselves. We didn’t infer their wellbeing from other answers they gave like how much money they had or how much of the day they spent smiling. So it’s hard to say why people scored themselves the way they did. But what we do know from the survey is that high life satisfaction is associated with certain other things. Self-determination for example. More people who didn’t have much choice over their free time reported low life satisfaction than those that had more choice and control.

“More people who didn’t have much choice over their free time reported low life satisfaction than those that had more choice and control.”

Same with having the right support. Getting support to do the things they wanted to do made a big difference when it came to levels of life satisfaction.

If you read the previous “How’s Life?” report, Relationships Matter, you won’t be surprised to hear that strong relationships are associated with high life satisfaction.

Indeed, many of the findings in this report will hardly raise an eyebrow. People told us that when they are healthy, can see their family and friends as much as they like, are happy with where they live and have staff that respect them and support them to do what they want, their sense of wellbeing is high.

In fact, 83% of people did rate their life satisfaction as high or very high.

Then the pandemic came.

People couldn’t see their doctor; appointments were cancelled. Families and friends were forced to become strangers. The home that they were happy with started to feel like a prison; staff that had been their portal to an independent life turned into two-dimensional images providing essential support at best – at worst there was total withdrawal of people’s support packages. So many people felt forgotten about and left behind.

For all of us the pandemic was and continues to be a challenge. For many people with learning disabilities it was a cataclysm.

“For all of us the pandemic was and continues to be a challenge. For many people with learning disabilities it was a cataclysm.”

The value of this pre-COVID report is that it provides a bit of a blueprint for the ‘building back better’ that is starting to take place.  Not that we should be trying to erect a faithful reproduction of what we had before – the title reminds us of that – but the report clearly lays out what is essential for people’s wellbeing.

The Feeley Review summarises this aptly in its ambition for social care:

Everyone in Scotland will get the social care support they need to live their lives as they choose and to be active citizens. We will all work together to promote and ensure human rights, wellbeing, independent living and equity.    

So, rebuild a social care service that aims to improve wellbeing. But our report isn’t just about social care. The report’s recommendations are for a wider audience.

The Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework states Scotland’s overall purpose is ‘…for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing…’.  It recognises that the nation’s wellbeing can only be achieved with collaborative efforts from ‘public sector, businesses, civil society and communities’.

It is this broad collaborative effort that’s needed to ensure that, as the focus falls on improving the wellbeing of the whole of Scotland, people with learning disabilities aren’t forgotten about and left behind, again.


Andy Miller
Strategic Lead: Participation & Partnership