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EVERY WEEK or month seems to be promoting awareness of different disabilities or organisations.

This week is Learning Disability Week, an annual event, and this year's theme is 'Looking Back, Thinking Forward' in Scotland's past, present and future. The week is co-ordinated by the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD). The aim of the week is for the public to take the opportunity to reflect on how the lives of people with learning disabilities here in Scotland have changed since the launch of Scotland's first learning disability strategy in 2001.

This new strategy is called 'The Keys to Life' and was launched in 2013, supported by the Scottish Government, to discover if the lives of people with a learning disability had improved since their previous strategy, 'The Same As You' in 2001.

For me, every day is about raising awareness of disability issues and breaking the barriers so that we can have a fairer, more equal society for 175,000 adults in Scotland with a learning disability (that's enough people to fill three football stadiums).
A team was set up to research statistics and opinions, and 'The Keys to Life' is the outcome of the research. The team created a survey group to get feedback on the report, and all of the information has helped build a new, informative and insightful resource.

The Friends of Barrhead and Thornliebank Resource Centres who were campaigning to save both their local day centres have put out the following statement from East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership who have now decided to keep o[en both centres.   

Please read the very brief statement below from the East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership - it is an excellent result for the group but the statement also demonstrates our need to keep together and to keep engaging with them as the centres start to change.

 We will thank all the individuals and organisations who have offered their support over the last years - ERDA, PAMIS, Learning Disability Alliance,Downs Syndrome Society, SDSForumER, carers' representatives, MSPs etc

 This is a great group and we have made a significant impact in East Renfrewshire....( and beyond  - some Glasgow carers rightly feeling even more now that they were never listened to.)



In February this year the Council approved a range of savings measures proposed by the HSCP including £90k which we hoped to achieve by the closure of one of our learning disability day centre buildings.  We saw this as a natural consequence of our vision and strategy for daytime activities for people with learning disabilities.  That vision, which we had been developing over a number of years, was for people with learning disabilities to access a much wider range of community based options, from volunteering to employment and participating in a wider range of community activities with support.  Our intent was to work with a range of groups and agencies to develop alternatives that met the aspirations of people with learning disabilities to live good lives.  It was also a good fit with self directed support, where more personalised support arrangements – perhaps with alternative providers, would evolve over time.

Record numbers of people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions are being helped into work by the Access to Work scheme.

New figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show more than 2,000 people with a learning disability were helped by the initiative in the year to 31 March 2015 with more new awards than ever before. The number of people with mental health conditions using the scheme – which includes the recently-established Mental Health Support Service in Access to Work – has continued to rise and now stands at more than 1,600.

Users can receive help with travel to work as well as access to support workers and specialist adaptations to help overcome the challenges they face in the workplace. Their employers will receive financial support with the extra costs associated with employing a disabled person beyond reasonable adjustments expected under the law.

Access to Work is a demand led scheme, and the increase in users with a learning disability or mental health condition comes as the overall number of disabled people using the scheme to find or stay in work reaches a 5-year high. In 2014/15 growth continued for the third consecutive year with an additional 1,200 more people supported, taking the total to 36,760.

Since April 2007, Access to Work has helped nearly 124,000 disabled people into employment. Changes to the scheme announced in March this year introduced personal budgets for those who want them as well as enhancing support for disabled people who wish to start their own businesses. 

 Lobby of Glasgow Council Budget Cuts Meeting

Thursday, February 19 at 12:30pm

City Chambers, George Square. The people of Glasgow should not have to pay for the mistakes of millionaire bankers.

• Defend services and jobs

• No to cuts in public spending

• Oppose the privatisation of public services

• Tax the banks and financial institutions that caused the crisis. End tax avoidance by the super-rich and make them pay their fair share

• For a united campaign of public services workers, community/ voluntary organisations and service user groups to defend Glasgow’s services

Other services are currently under threat.  This year in Falkirk two employment services for disabled people are facing financial challenges.  

ASSET is a council run non profit making business to get people with learning disabilities into work.  In a sheltered workshop setting they make  a lot of  different things, from fences, benches, bird houses, planters, balloons, wedding favours, invitations and much more.  A redesign of employment services to people with a disability is being proposed with potential closure mooted.  

Also in the same area is the Caledonia Clubhouse is an employment service for people with mental health problems and people with learning disabilities which helps people take up a range of options from volunteering to employment.  It tries not to pressure vulnerable adults too quickly.   Falkirk Council is reviewing its mental health services and hopes to achieve efficiency savings  of about 20% as  a result.  

For us at the Learning Disability Alliance the debate should not be an either/or decision between supported and open employment. It is right that adults with learning disabilities or disabilities should have every opportunity to work in a mainstream setting.