People with learning disabilities left stuck in lockdown because of cuts to social care

Mother and son sat outside Credit: Photographer: Nick Duquemin

Seven in ten (69%) people with a learning disability had their social care cut when they needed it most, leaving many stuck in lockdown according to a survey of family carers by Mencap.

Watch Kris Jepson's report here:

The charity asked 1,069 people across the UK about their experiences of caring for someone with a learning disability during the crisis.

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said their loved one's needs have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic

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said they've had no choice but to increase the amount of care and support they offer.

Mencap - the UK's leading learning disability charity - warns that cuts to day services, personal care in the home and respite for carers have had a devastating impact on people with a learning disability and their families, leaving them still in lockdown despite the easing of official restrictions.

The survey reveals that a lack of social care support during this crisis has negatively impacted people with a learning disability in a number of ways, including their mental health (69%), relationships (73%), physical health (54%) and independence (67%), according to family carers.

One family carer said the family hadn't left the house since March, while another who is shielding said that their loved one can only be supported to go out for a daily walk at night.

Caring for someone around the clock while day services are closed and respite hours are cut has taken a shocking toll on the wellbeing of family carers.

  • Over half (52%) of family carers said that they have struggled to cope with supportingtheir loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Three quarters say the situation has been detrimental to their own mental health, relationships and their physical health.

I am here alone giving 24-hour care to someone who cannot be left. Behavioural issues have been terrible. I had to choose to keep him safe rather than going for a wee, I had to wee on the floor. He was safe though.

Mother, 54, to 25-year-old son with a learning disability

Many families fear that cash-strapped local councils will have no choice but to make further cuts as lockdown eases.

Almost three quarters (72%) of family carers surveyed are worried that there would be more cuts to care packages to come, with some reporting that their loved ones' day support services have already been forced to close for good during lockdown.

Figures from a series of Freedom of Information Requests to Local Authorities in England, demonstrate the extent of financial pressures in social care for people with a learning disability even before coronavirus hit.

They show at least 2,459 working-age adults with a learning disability had the support hours in their care package reduced in 2018/19. But the charity estimates that, factoring in all Local Authorities, this could have been over 7,000 people - equating to around one in 20 people with a learning disability who receive social care.


I am really shaken by the results of this survey. We knew it was bad, but no one could hear these stories without feeling ashamed to be part of a society that allows this to go on.

Edel Harris, Chief Executive of Mencap

"Social care has had decades of under-investment, and we have been warning about the system being at breaking point for years - but here are clear signs that the system has broken and people with a learning disability and their families are paying the price. Mencap will not stand by and allow this to happen."

An £8 billion investment in social care in England is needed to restore adequate levels of quality and access to what it was a decade ago according to the Lords Economic Affairs Committee report. And yet local councils in England face at least a £6.6bn increase in social care costs due to coronavirus according to the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adults Social Services.

Mencap is launching a petition calling on the Treasury to invest in social care. It is also calling for major reform to futureproof the sector and ensure that the individual needs of people with a learning disability are met.

When these stats were put to the Government, a DHSC spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said:

“We are committed to supporting those with learning disabilities, autism and complex needs as well as those who care for them, and their interests will remain a priority throughout our recovery from the current healthcare emergency.

“We recognise the significant challenges facing the social care sector and have made £3.7 billion available to local authorities so they can address pressures on local services caused by the pandemic, including in adult social care."