Public Engagement Group responds to Scottish Govt Consultation on Learning Disabilities, Autism & Neurodivergence Bill

The Free Church of Scotland Public Engagement Group has responded to the Scottish Government Consultation on the Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill. The bill is seeking to protect, respect and champion the rights of people with learning disabilities and neurodivergent people.

The Public Engagement Group drew on the experiences and expertise of members of the Free Church of Scotland in preparing its response. The group also consulted with the organisation Prospects Across Scotland which helps churches to support people with learning disabilities and autism.

The Group welcomed the Government’s desire to place human dignity at the heart of these proposals. The group says that as Christians we believe all human beings are made in the image of God and that they have inherent worth and value. We must act to help and support those with learning disabilities and those who are neurodivergent. In this regard, we are supportive of many of the proposals contained within the legislation, whilst noting that there needs to be a corresponding investment of resources to make these proposals work.

The Group also encouraged the Scottish Government to look at how the church is already involved in supporting many with learning disabilities and who are neurodivergent. All human beings flourish in community, friendship and belonging and we believe this is an area where the church community can support people. Many with learning difficulties or who are neurodivergent attend our churches and this can provide a safe, welcoming place for them with relationships in which they can thrive. This extends beyond Sunday services.

Churches can provide a stable, loving, and supportive community and also provide practical help. Importantly a church community allows people not simply to receive a service but also to contribute to the church life as they use their gifts to contribute to the work of the church – thereby encouraging those with autism and neurodiversity to extend their life skills. Whether that is welcoming others to church, serving tea and coffee or helping with the sound desk: there are many roles for everyone to get involved in church life.

However, it should be noted that sometimes there are barriers to individuals attending church – particularly where supported living facilities claim they do not have enough staff or resources to take the individual to church. Their right to belong to a faith community must be respected and supported and more training in this area may be needed.

The Public Engagement Group’s full responses is available here.

If you would like more help and support as a church in providing for those with learning difficulties or who are neurodivergent the Group would recommend speaking with Prospects Across Scotland.