Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation call for urgent Cross Government action and investment in social care to enable children and adults to get the right support in their community


  • At least 2,185 people with a learning disability / autism continue to be locked away in inpatient units, of which 1,950 are adults and 235 children


  • Little change in the number of admissions - with 100 admissions in January


  • Discharge delays continue140 people with a learning disability / autism who should be back home in their community


  • High number of reported uses of restrictive inventions – 3,500 in one month, of which 805 were against children. This is likely to be just the “tip of the iceberg” as only data for 3 out of 18 private/independent providers and 28 out of 54 NHS providers.


  • The average total length of stay in in-patient units remains at 5.4 years.


According to data released today from NHS Digital, 2,185 people with a learning disability and/or autism remain locked away in inpatient units, no reduction on last month’s data. 1,950 adults and 235 children continue to be locked away.


Little change in the number of admissions with 100 people admitted in January alone. While 140 people remained in hospital when they are ready for discharge, with the main reasons being a lack of social care and housing provision in the community. 


There is still no robust cross-government strategy to ensure that health, social care, education and housing work together to stop inappropriate admissions and get people out of inpatient units.


Dan Scorer, head of policy and public affairs at the learning disability charity Mencap, said:


“This national scandal has been allowed to continue for far too long. Today’s NHS Digital figures indicate that the government and NHS England are set to miss yet another deadline whilst over 2,000 children and adults with a learning disability and/or autism remain locked away in these ‘modern day asylums’ at risk of abuse and neglect.


“These latest figures come just one week after the Equality and Human Rights Commission threatened legal action against the Health Secretary over the government’s repeated failure to stop human rights abuses in in-patient settings. The government must now deliver on its broken promises and develop the community services needed up and down the country so people who have been locked away for years can get out of these ‘modern day asylums’ and back home, close to their loved ones, with the care and support they deserve. The new Chancellor must use his first budget to announce a much needed emergency injection of cash into our social care system so that people with a learning disability and/or autism can get the support in their communities that they need. This will only happen when there is investment in the system and Government departments – health, housing, education and social care – are all working together to deliver a sustainable infrastructure of care. People with a learning disability and/or autism deserve to live in homes, not hospitals.”


Vivien Cooper OBE, CEO of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said: “Children and adults with learning disabilities and autism remain in inappropriate services, often far from their homes, because the Transforming Care programme has not delivered what was promised in 2012. These individuals and their families are living with the consequences of this failure, as highlighted by today’s data showing that incidents of restrictive interventions have increased, with 805 incidents on under 18s, including 80 incidents of prone restraint.


“It is clear that another target – set by the government itself, and the lowest end of it – will be missed again. In light of recent legal challenge by EHRC against the Department of Health and Social Care, it is time for a new approach, focussed on investment in community support and action to protect the human rights of children, young people and adults with learning disabilities and autism.”


Find our infographic highlighting the key figures here 



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