CAMPAIGNERS are calling for urgent action to tackle the “human rights emergency” of people with learning disabilities who are forced to live far from their families or in hospital.

The Enable Scotland charity has launched a #MyOwnFrontDoor campaign to give people with learning disabilities the right to a home they choose and to live in the community of their choice.

Official data shows that in 2019 more than 1000 such adults were sent by Scottish local authorities to live “out of area”, meaning not in their home local authority area.

A separate report published the previous year showed that 67 people were living in hospital because no appropriate accommodation and support was available in their community.

The Scottish Government Coming Home report of 2018 said that more than 22% had been in hospital for more than a decade, and another 9% for five to 10 years.

Jan Savage, director of Enable Scotland, said: “This is a human rights emergency. It is a national scandal – hidden in plain sight. People who have a learning disability – brothers, sisters, sons and daughters – are being forced to live far from home, to ‘live’ in hospital, or to live in care settings where they are uncomfortable and unhappy.

“I am sure that people will be shocked to learn about the situation our fellow citizens find themselves in. But they should be reassured that better is possible.

“Clear and decisive action is now required to adopt a ‘Community First’ principle to end the practice of people being sent out of area; to nationally invest in high quality, consistent, specialist social care support to be available in every community; and to stop building new multi-bed units for people who have a learning disability. These are not the solution - they perpetuate the problem.

“We cannot wait any longer. People who have learning disabilities are being subjected to a level of discrimination that we would not, and do not, expect other groups in our society to bear.”

A new campaign report from the charity – My Own Front Door – proposes five key steps it wants public bodies to take.

They include closing all assessment and treatment unit beds and ending the practice of Scots being sent out of the country, maintaining a national “at-risk” register and ensuring that everyone identified on this has a plan by 2023 to come home to the community of their choice.

John Feehan, who has a learning disability and is an active member of Enable Scotland, said: “Some people think that people who have a learning disability are not able to live in local communities like everyone else.

“They think that that it is easier for them to be locked away in hospital, or to live with lots of other people who have a learning disability. That isn’t true. It is only because the right support is not there – it’s not the person’s fault.

“Anyone can live anywhere with the right support.”

Kevin Stewart, Mental Health and Social Care Minister, said the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that people with learning disabilities receive the best possible support and services.

He said: “We acknowledge that there are continuing challenges around people with learning disabilities and more complex care requirements who have spent an unacceptable amount of time in assessment and treatment units. Hospital is not a home.

“That is why in March 2020 the Health Secretary established, with Cosla, a working group to improve delayed discharge and reduce inappropriate out of area placements for people with learning disabilities and complex needs.

“In 2021 we provided over £20 million of funding to local health and social care services to significantly reduce out of area placements and hospital stays by 2024.”