In 1954, five sets of parents met in Glasgow to discuss the possibility of setting up a Scottish organisation to help parents of children who have a learning disability, and to get better services for these families. More than 300 people turned up and a charity was born – the Scottish Association of Parents of Handicapped Children. 40 years later, this organisation would become ENABLE Scotland.
The Mental Health (Scotland) Act is passed in 1960. By this time, the organisation had its first office and a member of staff. In 1964, the charity – now the Scottish Society for Mentally Handicapped Children – had grown to 40 Branches throughout the country, with the addition of respite services.
In 1974, after a hard-fought campaign by the charity and organisations including the Scottish Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, all children in Scotland were given the right to go to school, something previously denied to many with learning disabilities.
In 1984, our members mobilised 33,000 people to sign a petition to the Secretary of State for Scotland, calling for a properly costed and comprehensive strategy for learning disability services in Scotland. It would take 16 years and a new Scottish Parliament before one was delivered.
In 1993, the charity changed its name to ENABLE Scotland, and a new era of rights-based campaigning and advocacy was born. In this same year we set up a national committee for adults who have a learning disability, ACE, to advise ENABLE Scotland – and others – about the things that matter to people who have a learning disability.
ENABLE Scotland members were at the forefront of the long-awaited review of learning disability services in 1999. When ‘The same as you?’ was published by the Scottish Government in 2000, it placed people who have a learning disability and their family and carers at the heart of learning disability policy and plans.
And it was only in the noughties that all of Scotland’s long-stay hospitals finally closed. ENABLE Scotland helped many people make the transition from hospital to a home of their own by providing advocacy services and developing supported housing and community-based support.
Five thousand members and award-winning campaigns followed, on diverse topics such as accessible transport, the seminal IncludED in the Main!? campaign on inclusive education, ENABLE the Vote, and access to free bus transport. We mobilised our supporters to get involved in campaigning online, and to fundraise in their largest ever numbers through events such as the Kiltwalk. We grew our ACE network (Advisory Committee of ENABLE Scotland) to 22 local groups, and established ACE Youth.
ENABLE Scotland’s influence on social care was significant. Members shaped the Social Care (Self Directed Support) Scotland Act 2013, and developed and embedded the PA model resulting in significant growth of impact – with more people and commissioners choosing us.
Campaign success for our workforce followed, as we led a successful campaign for the Scottish Living Wage to be paid for all hours worked.
We established the ENABLE Works brand, which has increased our reach to deliver specialist employability support into 27 local authority areas in Scotland. ENABLE Works has supported 2,500 people with additional support needs to achieve the necessary skills and qualifications to gain and sustain employment opportunities, with over 500 individuals per annum successfully securing paid employment opportunities.
In 2019, our Scottish Council elected its first ever Convenor who has a learning disability.
Scotland’s First Minister attended a reception in the Scottish Parliament to celebrate the organisation’s 65th anniversary in 2019, cementing its position as a strategic partner in the delivery of human rights driven social care, employability and community support services.