• Increasing number of children and adults with a learning disability and/or autism being locked away in inpatient units – more than 2,250 people.
  • Highest ever number of reported uses of restrictive interventions e.g. physical restraint - 3,000 - in one month – 770 of which were against children.
  • No change in the number of children still locked away – 240 - which still more than double the number when programme began.
  • Average time in inpatient units away from home for people with a learning disability and/or autism is still over 5 years.

According to data released today from NHS Digital 2,250 people with a learning disability and/or autism remain locked away in in patient units - an increase from last month.

Alarmingly the number of reported incidents of restrictive interventions e.g. physical restraint, has exceeded 3,000 in one month, for the first time since reporting began. And there has been no change in the number of children in these units for the past three months – at 240, it is more than double what it was when the Transforming Care programme began in March 2015. 

Dan Scorer, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Mencap says:

“The government’s lack of urgency on this issue is unforgivable. Instead of seeing a decrease month on month we’re now seeing the numbers of people locked away increase to 2,250.  We’ve had report after report - just last month we had Panorama, CQC and a damning report from the Children’s Commissioner - we know how bad the situation is and now we’re seeing the highest ever reported numbers of restraints in a single month -  over 3,000.

"We need cross-government action urgently, not just warm words from the Health Secretary. The impact on individuals and families is horrific. Even after the horrors of abuse at Whorlton Hall were uncovered, vulnerable people remain at increased risk of abuse and neglect, miles from home, for years at a time. This is a human rights scandal that can’t wait for Brexit to be sorted out, it needs addressing by the government now.”  

Vivien Cooper, CEO of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation says:

“Children, young people and adults with learning disabilities and/ or autism – and their families- are paying a very high price for the failure of the Government and the NHS to deliver the transformation of care. NHS England failed to achieve the promised closure of 35% of inpatient beds in March 2019 and simply extended the deadline to March 2020. We’ve seen no change in the number of children in these places for the past three months – there are still more than double the number of children in inpatient units than when the programme started in 2015, with no one-year target for the reduction in inpatient beds for children.

"Alarmingly reported incidents of restraint on children is now 770 in a single month and yet the long awaited guidance on the use of restrictive practices for children is still not published. There is no clear plan of action from government on how to address a system that is clearly broken. Where is the senior leadership and cross-governmental plan for education, health, social care, and housing? How long before there is action that makes a difference to end this scandal?”

- ENDS -

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

  • email media@mencap.org.uk
  • phone 020 7696 5414 (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 Assuming 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 the 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.