The charity has warned of early signs that local authorities are moving backwards from a long established national policy to support people within their communities.

Mencap conducted a Freedom of Information request of all local authorities in England and Wales and a survey of nearly 500 parent carers of people with a learning disability.

These reveal that 8 in 10 (82%) councils recognise that there is a housing shortage for adults with a learning disability in their areas, with nearly 7 in 10 (67%) stating this has worsened in the last 12 months.

The report, Housing for people with a learning disability, highlights that just 1 in 3 people with a learning disability lives independently in either supported accommodation (16%), as a tenant (15%), or as a home owner (2.5%).

Nearly 1 in 4 (22%) people with a learning disability live in registered care homes and 22,000 (13%) people with a learning disability are living out-of-area.

The research highlights that 7 in 10 (70%) people with a learning disability want to live more independently, but pressures on council budgets are preventing many from doing so.

In the past year, a number of local authorities have taken the decision to only support people with a learning disability to live independently if the cost to support them is less than moving them into care. Mencap is concerned that as a result of the financial pressures councils are under, local authorities are reverting to increasingly sending people into care, seeing it as a cheaper option rather than the best decision for the individual.

Mark Goldring, chief executive at Mencap, comments:

Less than half a century ago, people with a learning disability were locked away and kept a secret from the rest of society. Over recent decades, much progress has been made to ensure that people with a learning disability are able to live independently within their local communities. Councils must not allow short term financial pressures to turn back the clock for people with a learning disability.

The report finds that the majority of people with a learning disability continue to live with family and friends (38%). Of these, 13,000 (7%) live with parents aged over 70 or over, a figure which is expected to rise to 19,000 by 2026.

Mencap warns that little has been done by councils to plan for the future housing needs of people with a learning disability living with older parents, since the publication of its report, The Housing Timebomb, in 2002. Mencap’s new research shows that over 8 in 10 (83%) parents whose son or daughter lives with them have not planned for the time when they are no longer able to support them.

The charity has also noted increasing concern about housing issues from people with a learning disability and their carers. The number of calls about housing to Mencap Direct, Mencap’s helpline, has doubled in the past year. The housing advice service, the Housing and Support Alliance, has also reported a substantial year-on-year increase in calls, with call numbers rising from 720 in 2009–2010, to 1863 in 2011-2012.

Alicia Wood, Chief Executive, Housing and Support Alliance, says:

Calls to our advice service about housing have more than doubled in the last year. We continually hear from people with learning disabilities and families who are either being told that there is no housing and no money for them to move on from the family home, or that the only options are residential care or supported housing schemes when neither of these are suitable for individuals.

We know that with the right housing and support that not only do people with learning disabilities get what they need and thrive, but it is often more cost effective. If we go back to the days of only moving people on in a crisis, not only will there be a greater cost to the public purse but we will see another generation of people with learning disabilities without aspiration and any control over what happens in their lives.

One of the recommendations in the report is for local authorities to produce an action plan for improving independence for people with learning disabilities in their areas. Mencap's housing arm, Golden Lane Housing (GLH), will be launching a bond in February 2013 which will enable it to invest in buying houses for people with a learning disability.


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Notes to editors

Mencap’s housing arm, Golden Lane Housing, has been awarded £349,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, to develop an innovative new social investment bond which will raise up to £30m to invest in permanent homes for people with a learning disability. Golden Lane Housing will launch the bond in February 2013. For more information, please contact GLH at or 0845 6040046.

About Mencap

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability and their families and carers by fighting to change laws and 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.


What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complex information and interact with other people.

The level of support someone needs depends on individual factors, including the severity of their learning disability.