SCLD was delighted to welcome Jeane Freeman MSP, Minister for Social Security, to open our national conference on supporting people with learning disabilities to participate in Scottish communities in Thursday 7th September. The conference, held at Perth Concert Hall, saw over 160 delegates gather to hear from experts, including people with learning disabilities, and practitioners from across the country.
In her opening remarks, Ms Freeman noted that the first generation of people born since the closure of long stay hospitals will come of age within the next 10 years. She said:
‘Just as that significant change begun in the 1980s brought opportunity and challenge, this coming change, that first generation – also offers us and our country a significant opportunity – and one that we literally will not get again.’
The last decade has seen a growing recognition of the rights of people with learning disabilities to enjoy a life where they are respected as equal citizens, deciding for themselves how they want to live. There has also been a growing interest in viewing communities and people who live in them as assets, capable of creating their own solutions, rather than a list of needs to be met by services.
The conference provided an opportunity to explore these themes and to ask how we can assess the impact of asset based ways of working – putting ‘what works’ into practice.
Delegates heard from Di McNeish and Sara Scott, authors of a report on asset based practice, commissioned by SCLD on behalf of the Scottish Government. They provided and overview of their report, Building Bridges to a Good Life, and asked important questions about the next steps required to develop evidence about innovative practice.
They also heard from 13 asset based community projects, which were successful in receiving Scottish Government funding through The Keys to Life Development Fund. Project leads shared their experience of working to tackle hate crime, supporting social connectedness and employment opportunities, and offering parenting support to people with learning disabilities, and gave delegates the chance to learn from the work they had done and ask questions.
At the conference, SCLD launched a series of ‘How To’ guides, which describe the funded projects and their achievements, the challenges they faced, and what they learned were launched at the end of the conference. They provide practical insights for anyone who wants to learn more about how to implement innovative projects in their community.
SCLD hopes that the day generated ideas and encouraged conversations about how we can drive culture change and support inclusive approaches in our communities. We are planning a series of regional events over the coming months.
As Ms Freeman reminded delegates, ‘Presumptions need to be challenged. Transformational change is needed, first of all, in our thinking.’ We will know we will have succeeded she said, ‘when people realise their own ambitions and not ours.’
Acccess resources and presentations from the conference here.
View photos from the conference here.