Commission welcomes ‘promising, practical proposals’ to improve rights of people with learning disabilities and autism

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has published its response to the latest stage of the Independent Review of Learning Disability and Autism in the Mental Health Act.

The Commission welcomes the Review’s proposals to change Scotland’s mental health legislation to a model that treats disabled people as equal citizens, and provides support to remove the barriers that disable them, rather than “treating” the individual.

 Judith Robertson, Chair of the Commisson, said: 

“The rights of autistic people and people with learning disability are protected by both the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European Convention on Human Rights. The Review’s proposals consider solutions to ensure compliance with these international human rights obligations, so that people with learning disability or autism have their rights, will and preferences respected on the same basis as other people.

“The proposals are part of a welcome and decisive move away from substitute decision making. Although there are still some issues to be worked out to ensure coherence, we believe the Review makes some promising, practical proposals to deal with complex matters.

“The Review proposes legislation to provide for positive rights, including rights of access to specialist support, care and treatment, and rights to independent living. We broadly support these recommendations and believe a new law of this kind would better protect the human rights of people with learning disabilities or autism.

“The Commission has participated in this review throughout its course, acting as a member of the Law and Policy Advisory Group and supporting the review’s human rights based approach.  The issues raised and the human rights debate that surrounds them are complex and sometimes contentious.  We must acknowledge how thoroughly and carefully the review team has engaged with the requirements of the human rights framework, generating concrete proposals for changes to law and practice to bring them to life. 

“The review has also led the way in engaging with all aspects of a human rights based approach embodied by the PANEL principles (Participation, Accountability, Non-discrimination and equality, Empowerment and Legality).  In particular, people with lived experience of learning disability and autism have been involved in all parts of review and great efforts have been made to make these complicated ideas accessible to all.

“This work will also be extremely helpful for all stakeholders engaging with the other current reviews in mental health – the Mental Health Review led by John Scott QC and the Independent Review into the Delivery of Forensic Mental Health Services led by Derek Barron.

"Finally, the review’s work will be informative as we and colleagues on the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership take forward recommendations to develop a new Act of the Scottish Parliament to further incorporate economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

Read the Commission’s full submission.