A UNIVERSITY expert has praised the Scottish Government for recognising how important it is for people with learning disabilities to keep fit.

Dr Craig Melville, Glasgow University’s senior lecturer in learning disabilities psychiatry at the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, said it was to their credit that government ministers had committed further funding to develop ways to encourage disabled people to get involved in physical activity.

Last week The National revealed how Melville’s latest walking programme for those with learning disabilities had no real impact and the main reason was that carers could not find the time for walks because of social care budget cuts.University researchers found that those who took part in the £225,000 Scottish Government-funded Walk Well project were not walking more or sitting less.

Melville said the findings had “important implications on understanding intervention-generated inequalities in socially disadvantaged groups”.

About two per cent of adults have learning disabilities. Only five per cent meet public health recommendations for physical activity, compared to 64 per cent of adults in the Scottish Health Survey, and around 50 per cent have obesity problems compared to 25 per cent of all adults.

Melville said: “The Scottish Government launched a new strategy last year called the Keys to Life and just a couple of months ago they published an implementation strategy for that, and in that they have committed further funding to develop effective interventions for physical activity for people with learning disabilities.

“To their credit they are recognising it as an issue and are funding research and innovative programmes in Scotland as part of their strategy.“

There are lots of interesting projects going on around Glasgow to do with inclusive rugby and getting football teams to involve adults with learning disabilities, so there is lots happening.”

He also suggested that social enterprises, volunteer organisations and buddy programmes might have a role to play in supporting adults with intellectual disabilities to be more active.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish government is committed to improving the lives of people with learning disabilities, and we acknowledge this report.

“We want people with learning disabilities to enjoy a healthy life. Reducing the stark health inequalities people with learning disabilities face is a key priority within our ‘the keys to life’ strategy.”

Fitness scheme fails disabled – because cuts mean carers don’t have time to take walks with clients