• Over 10,000 reported uses of restrictive interventions in three months –  including 3,715 reported uses of restrictive interventions in April, the highest ever reported number
  • 2,255 people with a learning disability / autism are locked away in inpatient units – a decrease of only five people since Transforming Care targets were missed at the end of March
  • 245 children in inpatient units at the end of August – more than double the number when the programme began

According to data released today from NHS Digital, 2,255 people with a learning disability and/or autism remain locked away in inpatient units, of which 245 are children.

This is a decrease of only 5 people since the Government’s Transforming Care targets were missed at the end of March.

Today’s data shows that there was over 10,000 reported uses of restrictive interventions in three months e.g. physical and chemical restraint, of which almost a third - 3,230 – were against children.

The data shows the highest ever reported number of restrictive interventions in one month with 3,715 in April alone.

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

“Since March 2019, we’ve seen an overall decrease of just five people in inpatient settings. We were told that by this stage of the Transforming Care programme we would have seen an accelerated rate of change, and yet as this data shows us there is very little progress being made. It’s shocking that we still have more than 2,000 people locked away in these ‘modern day asylums’.

“We have to remember that behind those figures are real people with rights. They are often hundreds of miles from their loved ones for long periods of time - the average length of stay is still more than 5 years. These are inappropriate environments for people with a learning disability and/or autism to be in, they are noisy and chaotic and patients are vulnerable to abuse, overmedication, isolation and segregation. In today’s data we are seeing over 10,000 reported incidents of restrictive interventions in a three month period. We are also seeing reported the highest ever number of interventions in one month – 3,715, over a thousand of which were against children. This is unacceptable and deeply shocking. We have to see urgent action from Government, NHS England and Local Authorities as this can’t be allowed to continue. People 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.”

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

It is extremely concerning that levels of restraint are going up rather than down. We know that restrictive interventions cause long term damage and are indistinguishable from abuse to those experiencing them. There is clear evidence about how to provide good support to children, young people and adults with learning disabilities who display behaviours that challenge using Positive Behaviour Support. When will we see this change in practice so that care is really transformed?


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

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.  
  3. Figures for restrictive practices quoted from NHS Digital MHSDS Data: April, May and June 2019, published September 2019. For more information: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/learning-disability-services-statistics/at-august-2019-mhsds-june-2019-final
  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.   
  • There remains no robust plan from leadership for cross-government working.
  1. Reference to restrictive interventions causing long term damage and are indistinguishable from abuse to those experiencing them: Macdonald et al (2011) “You squeal and squeal but they just hold you down” Restrictive Physical Interventions and people with intellectual disabilities: service user views. BILD, International Journal of Positive Behavioural Support.

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 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.

For more information about the CBF’s work on restraint and seclusion: