Health inequalities: Learning disabilities

Explore case studies from councils and how COVID-19 exacerbated the inequalities people with learning disabilities face. This work informs part of the health inequalities hub, which is funded by UK Government.

Health inequalities banner

What are learning disabilities? 

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities, such as household tasks, socialising or managing money. People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people. 

It is estimated there are 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability – 350,000 of them are under the age of 18. In all cases a learning disability is lifelong.

Learning disabilities can be classed as mild, moderate, severe or profound. Someone with a mild learning disability may only need support with things like getting a job. However, someone with a severe or profound learning disability may need full­time care and support with every aspect of their life – they may also have physical disabilities. People with certain specific conditions can have a learning disability too. For example, people with Down’s syndrome and some people with autism have a learning disability.

Questions to consider for councillors

1. How many people with disabilities (both physical and learning disabilities) live in your area? How many children with special educational needs live there?

2. How does the council monitor and support the educational attainment of children and young people with disabilities, particularly those looked after by the council, as compared with nondisabled children and young people?

3. What are the employment statistics for disabled people in your area? How many young people with disabilities are not in employment, education or training (NEET)? How is the council working with local employers and what role is it playing as an employer in supporting disabled people into and in employment?

4. What advice and support is the council giving to disabled people in relation to claiming welfare benefits? For example, are you working with voluntary organisations to provide advice and support?

5. What is the housing provision for disabled people in your area? Is it adequate and appropriate? Is it included in your housing strategy?

Explore case studies from councils which showcase the best examples of working together to support and empower people with learning disabilities in the community and how COVID-19 exacerbated the inequalities people with learning disabilities face.