Scotland’s largest learning disability charity marked its 65th anniversary at the Scottish Parliament, making a vow to continue its campaigning for an equal society for every person with a learning disability.
At a reception at the Scottish Parliament hosted by Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie, ENABLE Scotland celebrated 65 years since, in April 1954, five sets of parents of children who had a learning disability held a meeting in Glasgow and formed the charity to help them fight for their children’s rights to live as equal members of society. That charity would become ENABLE Scotland, and from humble beginnings set about changing Scotland for people who have a learning disability.
Around 120,000 people have a learning disability in Scotland. According to the charity, many are lonely and isolated, are victims of bullying and hate crime, are unable to find work and have lower life expectancy than the general population.
A recent Scottish Government report found more than 700 people with complex needs are still in institutional placements far from home, and the experiences of pupils, parents and teachers show that more must be done to deliver the objectives of additional support for learning legislation to make our schools truly inclusive.
Jackie Baillie MSP said:
“It has been my pleasure to work with ENABLE Scotland as Convener of the Cross-Party Group on Learning Disability, and also with the local Helensburgh Branch and ACE Group as they campaign on issues from the Kilcreggan Ferry to access to education and jobs – all with a view to building an equal society for every person who has a learning disability.
“I was delighted to host ENABLE Scotland’s anniversary reception, and I wish all of their members, staff, volunteers, supporters and everyone the charity works with a very happy 65th birthday.”
The charity’s CEO Theresa Shearer said:
“For 65 years, ENABLE Scotland has been breaking barriers – winning the right of children who have a learning disability to be educated, securing the closure of institutions and the right to self-directed support in the community of your choice, and campaigning against bullying and discrimination.
“We continue that work today, and through our strong partnerships, ongoing innovation and the continued backing of our members and supporters, I am confident we will be here for as long as people with learning disabilities need us to campaign for them and give them a voice. We will be here until every person with a learning disability lives the life they choose.”
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon was a guest speaker at the event, and said:
“Congratulations to ENABLE Scotland for its fantastic work enriching the lives of people living with learning disabilities across Scotland for the last 65 years.
“ENABLE Scotland has been an essential partner for the Scottish Government, helping to tackle inequalities and supporting the ambitions set out in our learning disability strategy for everyone in Scotland to live full, healthy and rewarding lives.”
ENABLE Scotland has grown over the years to be the country’s largest learning disability charity, with more than 5,000 members across 38 local branches throughout Scotland, plus a growing network of 28 ACE Groups – Active Communities of Empowered people who have learning disabilities – and 9 ACE Youth Groups.
The charity is also one of Scotland’s largest third sector social care providers, commissioned by local authorities across the country to deliver services to support people who have learning disabilities to live the life they choose. Through a combination of its charitable, employment and social care services, ENABLE Scotland supports almost 3,000 people who have learning disabilities.