• 2,250 people with a learning disability / autism, of which 235 are children, continue to be locked away in inpatient units six months after the Transforming Care targets were missed at the end of March
  • 3,530 reported uses of restrictive interventions in July, over 1000 of which were against children 
  • Average length of stay in inpatient units is 5.4 years 
  • 10% of inpatient units for people with a learning disability and/or autism were rated as inadequate by the CQC in 2019 – up from 1% in 2018

According to data released today from NHS Digital, 2,250 people with a learning disability and/or autism remain locked away in inpatient units six months after the Government’s Transforming Care targets were missed at the end of March. 

Today’s data shows that 235 children continue to be locked away in these inpatient units, more than double the number recorded at the start of the Transforming Care programme in 2015. 

The average length of stay continues to be over five years – an average of 5.4 years and the use of restrictive inventions remains high; there were 3,530 reported number of restrictive interventions in July, of which over 1000 of which were against children. 

Earlier this week, the CQC revealed in its annual State of Care report that 10% of inpatient units for people with a learning disability and/or autism were rated as inadequate by the CQC in 2019, up from 1% in 2018.

Dan Scorer, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: 

“The CQC report earlier this week highlighted that these ‘modern day asylums’ are not the right environment for people with a learning disability and/or autism to receive care and support. 10% are now rated as inadequate, up from 1% last year. And yet over 2000 children and adults continue to be locked away – often hundreds of miles from their loved ones, for long periods of time – and we’re seeing an alarmingly high numbers of restrictive interventions being reported each month. The new NHS taskforce led by Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield is welcome, but must be granted robust powers and the resources needed to tackle the inappropriate use of restrictive interventions and ensure that the right community support is developed. In the Queen’s Speech, we heard more promises about reforming social care, but yet again people with a learning disability were absent from the narrative and there’s still no clear cross-government plan on how to deliver the specialist care in the community that is so desperately needed. This human rights scandal has to end. People with a learning disability and/or autism have the right to live close to their loved ones with the right support, enabling them to live fulfilling lives” 

Vivien Cooper OBE, CEO of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said:

These figures represent real children and adults – who are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters. These inappropriate environments are used due to a failure to invest in and provide the right support in the right place at the right time. One in every 10 of these services are rated by CQC as providing inadequate care, the lowest level possible. The figures released today show the shocking use of restrictive interventions, including physical, mechanical and chemical restraint, and people being kept in isolation and segregation. Yet again we’re seeing worryingly high levels of restrictive interventions being used against children – over 1000 reported in a month – when the trauma and damaging long-term effects of restraint are widely recognised. We know that these environments only make it worse for children, young people and adults with a learning disability and/or autism when what they really need is high quality and timely support in their community. When will we see the leadership, commitment and action from Government that will actually make a difference?”


   For further information or to arrange interviews, contact Mencap’s media team on: 

Notes to editors

1. Mencap and The Challenging Behaviour Foundation have been campaigning with families on these issues since the abuse scandal at Winterbourne View eight years ago.

  • The Assuring Transformation data from NHS Digital (PDF) is the most accurate and up to date account of people with a learning disability and autism in institutions. It is a record of how many are in an institution, how long they have been in for, when their care and treatment is checked and what kind of unit they are in. Latest data shows an overall decrease in the number of people locked away in inpatient units of only 10 in the six month period since the Government missed its Transforming Care programme targets at the end of March. Numbers have fallen from 2,260 at the end of March 2019 to 2,250 at the end of September 2019. 

2. Figures for restrictive practices quoted from NHS Digital MHSDS Data: July 2019, published October 2019. For more information: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/learning-disability-services-statistics/provisional-statistics-at-september-2019-mhsds-july-2019-final

3. Mencap and CBF are asking the Government to focus on:   

  • Developing local expertise, support and services  
  • Ensuring there is joint oversight and ownership of the national programme by the Ministers from the Department of Health and Social Care, Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Department for Education.  
  • Removing the red tape and funding barriers that are preventing so many people from returning home.   
  • There remains no robust plan from leadership for cross-government working.

4. The Care Quality Commission’s State of Care report is an annual assessment of health care and social care in England. CQC, State of Care 18/19, published 15th October 2019: https://www.cqc.org.uk/news/releases/growing-pressures-access-staffing 

About Mencap

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want. 

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap’s Freephone Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (9am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email helpline@mencap.org.uk.     

What is a learning disability?

  • A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life;
  • Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’; 
  • People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.  

About The Challenging Behaviour Foundation

The Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF) is a charity which exists to demonstrate that individuals with severe learning disabilities whose behaviour challenges can enjoy ordinary life opportunities when their behaviour is properly understood and appropriately supported. 

The CBF supports families across the UK caring for individuals with severe learning disabilities. Information and support around understanding challenging behaviour and supporting behaviour change is provided through a range of written and DVD resources, email networks, family linking scheme, and through individual telephone support.

For more information about the CBF’s work on restraint and seclusion: