NHS England also announced that Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner for England, will chair an independent oversight board to scrutinise and support the work of the taskforce. 

Oonagh Smyth, Executive Director of Strategy and Influence at the learning disability charity Mencap, said:

We warmly welcome NHS England’s announcement that it will introduce a new independent taskforce to improve specialist children and young people’s inpatient services in England. Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner for England, is a strong champion for the rights of children with a learning disability and/or autism and we welcome her appointment as chair. We look forward to continuing to work with her to ensure that children and young people can get the support they need in their community to stop them from reaching crisis point.  

We hope that this taskforce will help release the 245 children with a learning disability and/or autism who are locked away in inpatient units. This number has more than doubled in four years. We need to prevent children from being admitted into these institutions in the first place and enable those children who are currently locked away to come back home to their loved ones.

With this announcement, we are hopeful that this signals the NHS England’s commitment to transforming care for the nearly 2000 adults with a learning disability and/or autism are also locked away in inpatient units. Children and adults with a learning disability and/or autism have the right to live close to loved ones, with the right support, enabling them to live fulfilling lives. We look forward to working with NHS England to make this a reality.

For further information about the taskforce, visit the NHS England website.


   For further information or to arrange interviews with a Mencap spokesperson, contact Mencap’s media team on: 

Notes to editors

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.