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In context: Disabled Children and Young People  (Transitions to Adulthood) Bill

In context: Disabled Children and Young People (Transitions to Adulthood) Bill

The legislation was introduced by Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy last month, in a bid to provide extra support to young disabled people as they enter adulthood.

What’s the problem?

Disabled people in Scotland still face poorer outcomes than non-disabled peers after leaving school. Current government statistics show disabled people are twice as likely to be Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) six months after leaving school. By the age of 19, disabled people are three times more likely to be NEET.

And it’s not just about work alone – being unemployed when able to work can have knock-on impacts in other parts of life, particularly mental health. A 2005 report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that by age 26, disabled people were three times more likely to agree: “Whatever I do has no real effect on what happens to me.”

Ok, so what would this bill do?

The main point of the bill is to legally require councils to prepare and implement a transition plan for every disabled child within their area, starting from the age of 14 up until the age of 26. The aim is to ensure this cohort of people have the appropriate support in place as they enter adulthood, putting them on a more equal footing to their non-disabled peers. Specifically, it would ensure different services – like educational institutions, employment services, housing and social care – talk to each other so individual needs are met. It would also require the Scottish Government to create an overarching National Transitions Strategy, with annual reports to be made to the Scottish Parliament.

Duncan-Glancy tells Holyrood: “There needs to be that coordinated effort that is accountable, planned, focused and delivered, basically. That’s why there’s a duty on ministers to publish the strategy and to report on the strategy, a duty on organisations to work together on it, a duty on local authorities to produce a plan for each young person that needs one. Those all together pull everything in the right direction.”

The bill’s title sounds awfully familiar…

Yes. Labour MSP Johann Lamont proposed the exact same bill in 2019. However, bills – especially members’ bills – can take a long time to get through parliament, so by the time parliament was dissolved last year, the education committee had only had time for a single evidence session on it. On the upside, that meant Duncan-Glancy was granted permission to bring forward the bill this session without having to start from scratch.

Why did Duncan-Glancy take it on?

It’s an issue very close to home for the Labour MSP. She is, of course, parliament’s first permanent wheelchair user and has her own story to tell about transition. She says: “I remember my own transition as a young person, it took so much out of me and my family. It delayed my access to university by about two and a half years – and we planned early. We were working on something like this from about 15, 16. That doesn’t usually happen.

“We’ve got casework in my regional office of people contacting us saying the transition plan hasn’t started and the person’s leaving school at the end of this term. And you’re like, that’s not okay, because it is more complicated. There are more people that need to be involved to make sure that things work for young disabled people, and the statistics on where you end up and what your destination is when you leave school show that we’re failing them.

“I consider my role in parliament not just to represent the people of Glasgow as a regional MSP, but also to represent disabled women and disabled people. I take that responsibility seriously, and there is much that we need to do to make disabled people’s rights real in Scotland.

“If we start with young people, then hopefully, it’s one of those situations where there’ll be opportunities that will feed into the next generation. That’s why it was really important for me to do it.”

Is the bill likely to pass?

The initial proposal received the support of 59 MSPs from across all five Holyrood parties, and ministers have signalled they share the aspirations set out in the bill. That means it is very likely to at least pass stage one, where MSPs vote on its general principles. From there, various amendments will be lodged to improve it. Duncan-Glancy says she is “confident” it will become law. She’s keen to work with anyone, parliamentarian or not, who wants to help make that happen.

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