Learning disability


It's estimated that more than 1.2 million people in the UK are living with a learning disability. 

We have guides and resources to help you ensure your workers have the right skills and knowledge when working with people with a learning disability.

What is a learning disability?

People who have a learning disability (internationally referred to as an intellectual disability) have a significantly reduced ability to:

  • understand new or complex information or to learn new skills (impaired intelligence)
  • cope independently (impaired adaptive and/or social functioning)
  • cope independently which is apparent before adulthood is reached and has a lasting effect on development.

Each of these three criteria must be met before someone can be said to have a learning disability - intelligence quotient (IQ) alone should not be used to determine presence of a learning disability.


What's new? 

Supporting people who need care and support to have meaningful relationships

Everyone has the right to have meaningful personal relationships, including people with learning disabilities. It’s vital that adult social care workers have the right values, skills and knowledge to support people with personal relationships – and training is a vital part of this.

This new guidance helps employers to think about how they can develop their staff through training. It explains what workers need to know and understand about personal relationships, and how they can create a workforce development programme. 


The Learning Disabilities Core Skills Education and Training Framework  sets out the skills and knowledge care and health workers need to deliver high quality, learning disabilities services.

The aim of the framework is to support the development and delivery of appropriate and consistent cross-sector learning disabilities education and training.

It was commissioned by the Department of Health and we’ve developed it with Health Education England and Skills for Health.


The Transforming Care Programme is designed to improve services for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, who display behaviour that challenges, including those with a mental health condition. This will drive system-wide change and enable more people to live in the community, with the right support, and close to home.

We're working with Health Education England, Skills for Health, Transforming Care partners and other key stakeholders to support the ambitions of the Transforming Care programme by ensuring that we have a workforce which is able to effectively support people with a learning disability in the community.

Find out more about the Transforming Care Programme


Positive behavioural support (PBS) is the best way of supporting people who display, or are at risk of displaying, behaviour which challenges services. 

We have resources to help, including a guide to arranging and paying for training in PBS.

Find out more about positive behavioural support.


People who have a learning disability may also have autism and/ or a mental health and/ or a physical health problem.

We have lots of resources to ensure your workforce has the right skills and knowledge to support people with autism and / or a mental health problem. 


It's vital that people with learning disabilities are supported to access the right eye care and vision services. 

Adults with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely to have serious eye problems, which can seriously undermine quality of life and lead to avoidable sight loss and increased dependency. 

Here are some tips for workers supporting people with learning disabilities.

  • Support people with learning disabilities to have an eye test at least every two years, or more often if needed.
  • Understand how people with learning disabilities use their sight, and the signs that they might be having difficulty seeing. SeeAbility's Functional Vision Assessment Tool is a great starting point in eye care support - but ensure you share the outcomes and any concerns with an eye care professional. 
  • Some optometrists offer additional services to support people with learning disabilities such as picture tests instead of letters, longer appointments, multiple visits including familiarisation visits, easy read information and staff who’ve had training about the specific needs of people with learning disabilities. Use SeeAbility’s optometrist database to find a service in your area.
  • Choose a pair of glasses that the person likes and make sure they’re comfortable to wear.
  • Ensure the person and staff know when the glasses should be worn, for example reading, watching TV or at all times.
  • Record a person’s eye care and vision support in their support plan, communication passport, health action plan and annual reviews.
  • It might be useful to introduce the glasses for short spells of time initially to help the person get used to them.
  • Support the person to clean their glasses regularly.
  • If someone has a visual impairment, organise an assessment by a specialist rehabilitation worker to assess their independence and communication in everyday activities. 

SeeAbility has lots of short factsheets and films about eye tests, wearing glasses and eye conditions for people with learning disabilities and those who support them. 


We’re exploring the use of personal workforce budgets to train and develop the workforce (including unpaid carers) to better support individuals with complex and/ or multiple social care and health needs, and we have funding to support this.

A personal workforce budget is an amount of money allocated and spent specifically on developing the skills of the workforce that support an individual who has complex and/ or multiple social care and health needs.

We invite commissioners, funders and providers of social care services to consider how and if they could use this approach with the support of funding from Skills for Care.

Typically the funding can pay for training and development for workers from different organisations from social care and health, and family carers and those working at more than one level.

Read more about what the funding can be used for and apply now



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