Channel 4 Dispatches: Under Lock and Key broadcast at 10pm Channel 4 Wednesday 1 March.

Jan Tregelles, chief executive at Mencap, and Viv Cooper, chief executive at the Challenging Behaviour Foundation said:

Long-stay institutions that keep people with a learning disability in prison-like settings were meant to have been shut down decades ago. The failure to do this has been brought painfully to light by Channel 4’s Dispatches, exposing the harrowing conditions people with a learning disability face up and down the country, as they remain trapped in inpatient settings with no release date in sight.

The Government and NHS England has taken too long to address this scandal of care that sees people with a learning disability subject to being physical restraint, kept in seclusion and over-medicated with no guarantee when or if they will return home to their communities and families. As it stands the law is failing people with a learning disability allowing them to remain in units at risk of abuse and neglect- the Government must address this urgently.

NHS England must stop sending people to large institutions where there is a heightened risk of abuse, and focus on driving the development of community based care, where people can live independent lives free from the damaging effects of institutionalised care.

People with a learning disability have the same hopes, desires and dreams as anyone else in society. It is time we stopped denying their basic rights and sending people to places where they remain trapped under lock and key in prison-like settings, with no guarantee of when or if they will return home to their communities.


For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 5414 or or for out of hours 07770 656 659.

Notes to editors

Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation were shown a pre-screening of Dispatches: Under Lock and Key.

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 Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, 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.

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.

Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.