Our history

Learning Disability Wales promotes the right of people with a learning disability to experience a full, stimulating and varied independent life and to enjoy all the advantages and responsibilities of being a citizen. We work to ensure that the voice of children, young people and adults with a learning disability is heard and listened to.

We have acted as advocate, guardian, innovator, networker, persuader, and watchdog since our creation in 1983, as the Standing Conference of Voluntary Organisations for people with a mental handicap in Wales (SCOVO).

We were created at the same time as the revolutionary All Wales Mental Handicap Strategy was being written. In 1983, a combination of very limited access to education, a series of abuse scandals in mental handicap hospitals and an almost complete absence of any community based services to support people with a learning disability and their carers convinced civil servants in the Welsh Office that radical action was necessary.

Working with a small group of dedicated campaigners, the Welsh Secretary of State announced an all Wales Mental Handicap Strategy. The Strategy required massive changes that were to have a revolutionary impact unequalled in Europe. Three simple principles were introduced.

People with a learning disability have the right to:

  • a normal pattern of life in the community
  • be treated as individuals
  • to receive additional help and support from their community and from professional services to help them maximise their potential as individuals.

The small group of campaigners who were influential in pressing the case for a strategy recognised the need to develop a vibrant third sector that had a strong voice at national level. Their judgement was that it would act as a catalyst for change and ensure that the strategy principles were translated into action.

We believe that the third sector has an important contribution to make. It can play a vital role in helping people with a learning disability speak up, in promoting the rights of family carers and in providing creative, innovative and responsive services.

After debate with our members, we changed our name in 1993 to Standing Conference of Voluntary Organisations for people with a learning disability in Wales (SCOVO).

We were then re-titled and re-branded as the more user friendly 'Learning Disability Wales' in 2005.

We have remained true to our original purpose and continue to act as a strong voice on behalf of our members.