Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation call for urgent Cross Government action and investment to enable children and adults to get the right support when and where they need it.

  • At least 2,185 people with a learning disability/ autism continue to be locked away in inpatient units, including 230 children
  • Little change in the number of admissions - with 95 admissions in December
  • Discharge delays continue
  • Restrictive interventions were used over 3,000 times in one month, - 910 were against children
  • High levels of missing data - figures available for 3 out of 18 private/independent providers and less than half of the 56 NHS providers.

According to data released today from NHS Digital, 2,185 people with a learning disability and/or autism remain locked away in inpatient units, a reduction of just five in December. 230 children continue to be locked away.

A high number of people with a learning disability and/or autism are being admitted to hospitals - 95 people were admitted in December alone. 135 people remained in hospital when they are ready for discharge, mainly because of lack of social care and housing provision in the community.

There were a high number of reported uses of restrictive inventions (3,245 in one month), of which 910 were against children. This is likely to be just the “tip of the iceberg” as there are high levels of missing data, with data only from 3 out of 18 private/independent providers and 23 out of 56 NHS providers.

The average total length of stay in in-patient units remains at 5.4 years.

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

“Today’s data shows a worrying loss of momentum with a net reduction of just five people with a learning disability and/or autism coming out of inpatient units this month. A reduction like this is an indication that NHSE is highly unlikely to meet its own target of a 35% decrease by March 2020, which itself is a deferred commitment from March last year. Today’s figures offer little evidence that the right community support is being developed. The small changes in the numbers of admissions and delayed discharges result from a lack of suitable housing and social care. We urgently need to see departments across government working together to develop the right support in local areas – carers with the right skills, suitable housing and healthcare professionals with the expertise and capacity to support people, their families and carers – so that people who’ve been locked away for years, in these ‘modern day asylums’, miles from home, can finally be discharged and receive the care and support they deserve close to their loved ones.”

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

“The data provides little evidence of the transformation of care that has been promised for so long. Each number represents a person, and when this is combined with the woefully incomplete data about the use of restrictive interventions it highlights what

those individuals are experiencing. Numerous reports have been published, including recent CQC reports about large, profit making providers who deliver poor quality services funded from the public purse. These provide further compelling evidence of the need for change. It is time the Government showed real leadership and actually addressed the root causes of the systemic failures so that children and adults with learning disabilities and their families get the right support in the right place at the right time.”


For further information or to arrange interviews, contact Mencap’s media team on or 020 7696 5414 (including out of hours).   

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. Latest data shows that numbers have fallen from 2,260 at the end of March 2019 to 2,185 at the end of December 2019:
  3. Figures for restrictive practices quoted from NHS Digital MHSDS Data: October 2019, published January 2020. For more information:
  4. In the tables for restrictive practices we cannot distinguish between ‘less than 5’ and ‘missing data’, so we have to treat this all as missing data.
  5. 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.

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    

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: