• 3,670 reported uses of restrictive interventions in one month, an increase from last month, of which one in four was against a child 
  • At least 2,220 people with a learning disability / autism, of which 235 are children, continue to be locked away in inpatient units 
  • Little change in the number of admissions – with 100 admissions in October.
  • Average length of stay in inpatient units is still 5.4 years
  • Discharge delays for  140 people with a learning disability / autism 

According to data released today from NHS Digital, 2,220 people with a learning disability and/or autism remain locked away in inpatient units, a reduction of 30 in October. 235 children continue to be locked away

There was an increase in the  number of reported uses of restrictive inventions with 3,670 reported number of restrictive interventions in one month, of which one in four was against a child. 

Lack of social care and housing provision in the community were the main reasons for delayed discharge, which impacted on 140 people.  

The average length of stay continues to be over five years – an average of 5.4 years.

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

“The number of children locked away in these institutions remains the same and while 30 adults is a significant decrease this month, we are still a long way off the minimum target of 35% decrease which should have been met in March 2019.

"There is still a big question about whether the right local support is being developed in the community to enable safe discharge and put a stop to the next generation of children and adults being admitted into these ‘modern day asylums’.

"We are still a long way from seeing a sustained month-on-month decrease in the number of people with a learning disability and/or autism coming out of these institutions. Half a billion pounds is being spent on so-called “care” which parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has labelled as “damaging people”.

"Whoever ends up with the keys to Number 10 must commit to setting up the specialist unit to tackle Transforming Care the committee called for, and fund social care for all working aged disabled adults who need it. This human rights scandal has to end.”

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

“Despite the recent announcements about more reviews, one in ten patients locked away in these institutions are children. They are exposed to one in four reported uses of restrictive interventions, which include being held down or kept in solitary confinement.

"Behind these figures are real children who have a right to appropriate support and services in their local community which is not being delivered.

"We hear numerous pledges in the election campaign, but we need commitment to leadership to “Transform Care” as promised over 8 years ago following the Winterbourne View abuse.”


   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 in this 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 that numbers have fallen from 2,260 at the end of March 2019 to 2,220 at the end of October 2019.

2. Figures for restrictive practices quoted from NHS Digital MHSDS Data: August 2019, published November 2019. For more information: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/learning-disability-services-statistics/at-october-2019-mhsds-august-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.

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.  Visit www.mencap.org.uk.

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 visit: https://www.challengingbehaviour.org.uk/driving-change/restraintandseclusion.html