Losing the keys to lifeType: Blogs
Topic: Coronavirus | Disability rights | Mental health | Policy and legislation
Published on: 14th October 2020
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, we knew that things weren’t perfect. The quiet but constant threat of local authority funding cuts, an increase in demand leading to longer waiting lists, and ever-tighter criteria for people to access much needed services were issues that the social care sector were already grappling with.
Whilst some in the sector believed that there has been a longstanding agenda to reduce or even to cancel day service provision as a budget cutting exercise, others dismissed this idea. Why would any local authority take away something so vital, and risk the mental health and wellbeing of people who, in many cases, are already isolated?
Day services transform lives
Traditional day services are an essential part of everyday life for many people. They provide routine and connections to others, stability and opportunities to try new things. In some cases, they are, quite simply, lifesavers. They should be celebrated and protected, not suspended or terminated.
The opportunities offered within Camphill communities across Scotland go beyond traditional day service provision. The workshops and jobs are frequently transformational. People with learning disabilities and additional support needs come to their community as an individual to engage in meaningful work and to be part of a team that positively impacts a wider community.
Many roles are outdoors, and communities have worked hard to create new, safe and robust indoor provision too, which meets and often surpasses statutory Covid-19 risk assessment criteria. Yet increasingly local authorities, with a few admirable exceptions, are terminating contracts without any explanation or consultation with the supported person, their families or the community they work with.
Eroding human rights
Decisions taken without assessment or consultation deny people of their individual liberties. Lack of engagement with service providers, families and the people who Camphill support is inappropriate and a backwards step. This is fundamentally about an erosion of human rights.
It is not only Camphill services which are being cut by local authorities. Camphill Scotland is working with a wide range of third sector partners and other service providers who are experiencing similar worrying cuts, with no alternatives being offered.
We are gathering testimony from families, and we are tracking patterns as they are beginning to appear across the country. We are working with our members to raise the issue with local authorities, politicians across all parties and Scottish Government.
Reframing meaningful work
We also have work to do on reframing what meaningful work really stands for and how it is viewed within the sector and wider society.
Day service provision in Camphill is not about passing the time. It is about transformation and connection, a sense of wider purpose and mental resilience and it provides an opportunity to fulfil potential. Why we would deny any person of those things is questionable, but to actively take those things away from someone without any explanation – and during a pandemic – is cruel.
The keys to life
The withdrawal of day service provision is a breach of the UN’s principles on the Rights of the Disabled Person and falls a long way short of recommendations in Scotland’s learning disability strategy ‘The Keys to Life’.
The Scottish Government strategy states
… people with learning disabilities should be supported to flourish and succeed… treated with dignity, respect and understanding… able to play a full part in their communities and live independent lives.
We are doing all we can to ensure that these fundamental rights are upheld.
Read more about our work to get day service provision re-instated:
Blog by Emma Walker, Director, Camphill Scotland