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|27 Aug 2016|
John's Jolly Walking Group
The study by researchers at Glasgow University reported in Wednesday’s Herald that found children conceived during winter months were more likely to have a learning disability makes interesting reading. Professor Jill Pell, director of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow University led the research which looked at information collected by the School Census covering 800,000 Scottish children.
It is too early yet to fully understand what might cause this. Concerns about the lack of Vitamin D caused by inadequate sunlight have featured regularly in the Scottish health conversation over recent years and it may be that this is indeed the case. And Professor Pell, thinks that this is the cause. She says, “"Vitamin D is very important for brain development in the child and the first three months (after conception) are the critical period when the brain develops.” A lack of Vitamin D in the first 3 months of conception is “the most plausible explanation for the trend”
However the researchers admit they carried out no work on Vitamin D levels in pregnant mothers or any school children. They are not even able to cite any “human related” research into the effects of reduced Vitamin D levels in pregnancy.
As a result without any serious evidence, we are given a new scare about more people being born with learning disabilities. At the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, we believe that people with learning disabilities live valued and valuable lives. There is nothing to be scared about!
We need to be careful in drawing such conclusions from this type of research. The research is primarily secondary analysis of existing data. The quality of the research will depend on the quality of statistics that are being used. The school census used does not rely on health diagnoses but uses instead diagnoses by a variety of education professionals who are using this information for their own purposes – addressing specific educational challenges. This is a legitimate aim. It can help teachers and teaching assistants do better work if they know more about the educational needs of their pupils. It may also lead to more resources being made available to help in the classroom.
This can in some cases produce a bias in arriving at a “diagnosis” or, more accurately, a “characterisation”. Many children on the border line will be given a “diagnosis” as this is the route they can get help.
The Aberdeen Stronger Together Group met with Lewis MacDonald at his new office in Rosemount Place. Sadie, George, Calum, Derek and Keith came along and asked Lewis some challenging questions. He answered them well and everyone was really happy that he had listened so well.
The questions were on
- Social Security
- Bullying and Harassment
- Making Scotland Better
Stronger Together groups from all around Scotland have been meeting with MSPs to discuss areas of concern and to raise awareness amongst MSPs of the issues that matter to people with learning disabilities.
In Kilmarnock the group met with Willie Coffey, the MSP for Kilmarnock
We spoke in frank terms about
- Personal Independence Payment
- The Work Capability Assessment
- Access to Community Activities
- The Concessionary Travel Scheme
- Care Charges
In Stirling the group met with Mark Ruskell, one of the list MSPs for Central Scotland
With Mark we talked about
All across Scotland, the 31 Integration Joint Boards have been meeting to begin their official work in running social care in Scotland. This is a major shift in policy that has been given an easy ride so far. The NHS is one of our national treasures and bring social care together with health can surely only be a good thing. But as our article on Page 2 suggests, the NHS may not always guarantee good care.
The minutes of all Joint Boards are available online for anyone to have a look at. We analysed the agendas and papers for 62 meetings of 31 Integrated Joint Boards to see what they talked about.
There is no mention of Learning Disability Services in these meetings between March and June of 2016. Often the poor relation of social
work, we worry about a lack of priority for people with learning disabilities. We did spot one reference inside the papers of the Glasgow Board which promised a further review of Learning Disability Services for the year 2017-18 as part of another “efficiency drive.”
The importance of tackling the “Delayed Discharges” of older people. Is clear. Some explain that the Scottish Government has provided a strong financial incentive if targets are reached to reduce delays of more than 2 weeks. Most IJBs discuss delayed discharges at every meeting. Some had 4 agenda items dealing with this.
Delayed Discharges are about people who no longer need hospital care but can’t leave hospital for various reasons. This is an expensive cost to health boards. A former Cabinet Secretary for Health said “The average cost of keeping someone for a week in an acute hospital across Scotland is £4600 a week. While on average, to keep and treat someone in a home setting is £300 a week.”