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Chair of the Board, Susan Douglas Scott, wrote this article for The Herald, which was published in print on 14th May 2021 and online here.

Covid-19 has put life on hold for most people – and for many young disabled people who are already at risk of exclusion from society, this impact has been compounded.

Our recent survey found that over half of respondents felt the pandemic had a significantly negative impact on them. Many disabled people have felt more unsafe and isolated yet have received less support due to disruption or lost access to key services.

The results highlight the anxiety and despair that many are feeling around what comes next. People are concerned about the impact of a sustained loss of access to services, and what the future holds.

Many have experienced loneliness, and this is exacerbated for young disabled people. During the pandemic, they have had limited opportunities to develop and advance independent living skills at vital stages in childhood and adolescence.

We must learn from this disproportionate impact as we emerge from this global crisis. We need to consider these experiences and utilise learnings to ensure young disabled people can enjoy fulfilling independent lives.

They need support to overcome structural, attitudinal, societal and physical barriers to independent living.  They also need support to learn to express how they want to live their lives and gain the skills to achieve their goals.

Being in the right mindset to achieve independent living is important for all disabled people yet too often people get beaten by the system.  I have both experienced this myself and in my long career working with disabled people and know the effect that consistently fighting for your rights can have.

It is a skill to learn how to ask for just the right amount of support so that you can make, or at least be central to, key decisions about your life – this means accessing the right support.

As we come out of lockdown, the expectation is that we go back to normal. For young disabled people, especially those with a learning disability, emerging from the life patterns and routines ingrained over the past year may not be so simple.

We need a new way of supporting these individuals. We say that life will never be the same again and there will be a ‘new normal’ but what does that look like for young disabled people and their families? We need to listen and respond to meet their needs.

I used to be a young disabled person, and nobody ever asked me what I thought about the support I needed. Today, I want that to change. ILF Scotland is passionate about giving young disabled people what they need to gain independent living skills so they can have the same expectations and choices as their non-disabled siblings and peers.

The Transition Fund helps disabled Scots aged 16-25 to plan for the future, pursue passions and support a more independent way of living so they can reach particular goals and participate in their community.

We need to help young disabled people reconnect, recover and build resilience for life post-Covid.