What is the issue?

A padlock

Over 2000 people with a learning disability or autistic people are being held in inpatient mental health hospitals in England.

It’s a human rights scandal that we want to stop.

People out in the community

Many people are locked up because there is a lack of the right community support, skilled social care , and suitable housing - not because of a mental health problem.

A man next to a list that says Missed targets with years with crosses next to them

The last government promised to reduce the number of people with a learning disability and autistic people in inpatient mental health hospitals.

They repeatedly missed their own deadlines, and the progress by the last government, the NHS and local authorities was far too slow.

Protesters holding up signs saying "Stop abuse" and "Is this Care?"

Thousands of families have been devastated due to this failure to act – and thousands more will continue to suffer if action isn’t taken urgently.

A clock showing an hour has passed

The latest commitment was to reduce the number of people with a learning disability and autistic people in inpatient units by 50% by March 2024.

The last government  missed this target, and we estimate it won’t be met until 2030 at the earliest.

Elliot’s story

The last government promised to reduce the number of people like Elliot held in mental health hospitals by 50%, but they are 6 years off meeting their deadline. There must urgently be a new plan to get more people back in their community with the right support. 

  Sign the petition

Enough is enough – people should be able to live in homes, not hospitals. 

Dan Scorer gets interviewed by ITV
ITV investigation - Billions wasted
A drawing of a locked padlock
Read this ITV news story in easy read
Current data shows:

At least 2025

People with a learning disability and/or autistic people are locked away in mental health hospitals

Over 6 Years Behind

We estimate the the last target to reduce the number of people held in mental health hospitals won't be met until 2030

74% (nearly three quarters)

of local areas have failed to bring inpatient numbers down to the required level.

4.9 years is the average length of stay for current inpatients

NHS Digital Assuring Transformation data, May 2024 (published June 2024).

What is Mencap calling for?

An updated and strengthened action plan

The new government must update and strengthen the Building the Right Support Action plan and targets as a matter of urgency, as the current targets are out of date. In particular, the plan must tackle the ongoing inappropriate detention of people with a learning disability and autistic people and the shocking lengths of stay. It must also address the huge variation in progress between local areas in reducing the number of inpatients with a learning disability and/or autistic people.

The right support in the community

The last government published a clear model in 2015 for the support and services that should be in place in all local areas. The new government must ensure that local areas develop the right community support- without this the human rights scandal will continue. We need urgent investment in community support, with a real focus on early intervention and prevention. Like anyone else, people with a learning disability and autistic people should be able to live life in the community with the right support and suitable housing, close to family and friends.  

Reform of the Mental Health Act

People with a learning disability and autistic people should not be inappropriately detained in mental health hospitals. People with a learning disability and autistic people can currently be sectioned under the Mental Health Act, even if they don’t have a mental health condition. This is wrong as people can end up detained in a mental health hospital just because there is a lack of the right support in the community, not because they need inpatient mental health care. While detained, they are at increased risk of abuse and neglect in these settings, where there is often a high use of medication and restrictive practices, such as physical, chemical and mechanical restraint and being kept in isolation. 

Find out the progress in your local area

The last government's target was that by the end of March 2024 there would be no more than 30 adults with a learning disability and/or autism in mental health hospitals per million adults who live in a local area. Click on the map to find out if your local area has met the target.

White space

74% of local areas aren’t meeting the required level. This is unacceptable.

Sign the petition

White space

Find out about your local area

We've collected all the data that the government publishes and analysed it to create this resource. Click to find out more about the numbers of adult inpatients in your local area.

Homes not Hospital Data example

The devastating impact of government inaction on people and their families

Families whose loved ones are in inpatient units now or have been in the past, share their stories:

Donate to Mencap


could answer a call from someone in crisis who reaches out to our Learning Disability Helpline for support.


could help a trained caseworker stop a parent’s loved one from being wrongfully locked up in a mental health hospital.


could help pay for urgent legal support for a family in desperate need of advice to prevent their loved one being admitted to an in-patient unit.

Several drawings of black keys of different sizes on an oatmeal background

Campaigning for change

Hear the stories of families whose loved ones were held in mental health inpatient units to understand why things must change.

Tea, smiles and empty promises

Families of some former patients at Winterbourne View came together to mark 10 years since the abuse scandal at the inpatient unit was uncovered, sharing their harrowing stories to highlight continuation of the scandal and the desperate need for change.

Pages from the Tea, Smiles and Empty promises casebook

Answers to frequently asked questions