Government must invest in community-based care packages to get children, young people and adults with a learning disability/autism out of inpatient units.

  • Increasing number of people with a learning disability and/or autism locked away in inpatient units – 2,270 people, the second monthly increase since Transforming Care targets missed
  • Increasing number of children locked away – 245 - more than double the number when programme began
  • Last month NHS Digital published the highest ever number of reported uses of restrictive interventions – over 3,000 in one month, 770 of which were against children. No figures have been published this month.

According to data released today from NHS Digital, 2270 people with a learning disability and/or autism remain locked away in in patient units. This is the second month-on-month increase since the Government’s Transforming Care programme missed its targets in March 2019.

There was an increase in the number of children locked away – 245 - more than double the number when programme began.

NHS Digital has delayed the publication of the data on restrictive practices in inpatient units. Last month there was the highest ever number of reported uses of restrictive interventions e.g. physical and chemical restraint - over 3,000 in one month, 770 of which were against children.   

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

“The government and NHS England have repeatedly claimed we would see the biggest numbers of people moving into the community now, as more support is put in place. But this hasn’t happened, and numbers are going up when 3 years into the programme we should be seeing numbers of people in units falling month-on-month. Now we’re seeing the second monthly increase in both the number of children and the number of adults with a learning disability and/or autism being locked away in inpatient units since the government missed its own deadline to close 35-50% of in-patient beds by March 2019. This can only be solved by sustained investment in good quality social care and a robust cross-government plan to ensure children and adults with a learning disability get the support they need, when they need it. We need leadership from the top across social care, health, education and housing. We need action, not just warm words, if we are to get people with a learning disability and/or autism out of these institutions and back in their community – hospitals are not homes.”

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

“We know that children, young people and adults in these inpatient units, are at increased risk of neglect and abuse, and are being subjected to inappropriate physical restraint, over medication and being kept in isolation. This is a domestic human rights scandal. Last month saw the the highest ever number of reported uses of restrictive interventions in inpatient units – 3,075 restrictive interventions, 770 of which were against children. This month NHS Digital has failed to publish this data when we need transparency about what is happening in these institutions. The average length of stay in inpatient units remains over 5 years. There is still no clear plan of action from government about how they will address a system that is clearly broken and causing people harm. The lack of urgency to take action from both the government and NHS England is totally unacceptable.”

Mencap transforming care statistics infographic



For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the Mencap press office on:

  • Email:
  • Tel: 020 7696 5414 (N.B. this is the same number for out of hours contact)

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.
  2. The Assuring Transformation data from NHS Digital 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.  
  3. Figures for restrictive practices quoted from NHS Digital MHSDS Data: March 2019, published June 2019.   
  4. 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.   

About Mencap

There are 1.4 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 Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email

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.