oliver2 It is estimated that there are half a million autistic people living in the UK. 

We estimate that over half a million adult social care workers support people who are living with a learning disability and/or autistic people in England. 

It's vital that these workers have the right values, skills and knowledge to provide high quality, person-centred care and support.  

We’ve worked with the National Autistic Society and Skills for Health to develop resources to help you ensure that your staff have the right skills and knowledge when working with autistic people.

Our resources explain what skills and knowledge workers need to support autistic people, their carers and families, and can help employers to develop their workforce. 

We also facilitate an 'Expert group of people with a learning disability and autistic people' to support this work. Find out more about the group, including how to join, below. 

Keep up to date

There's lots of work happening, nationally and locally, to develop and support the learning disability and/or autism workforce. Register to receive updates by creating an account on the Skills for Care website, and selecting the ‘Learning disability and/or autism’ option under the ‘Areas of interest’ section. 

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Partners announced for the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Learning Disability and Autism training for all health and social care staff Oliver M banner  

Mandatory training for all  social care and health staff in learning disabilities and autism moved a step closer today with the announcement of the partners who will design, develop, trial and evaluate the training.  

The training is named after Oliver McGowan whose sad death shone a light on the need for health and social care staff to have better training that offers a greater understanding and will help improve their skills and confidence when delivering care to people with learning disabilities and autistic people. Oliver’s mum Paula McGowan led a campaign for more training.

It will be known as The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training in Learning Disability and Autism.

In 2019, the government set out their commitment to mandatory training in their consultation response in 'Right to be heard’. This was in response to recommendations made in the second annual Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) report.

Today [16.07.2020] The University of Bristol’s fourth annual Learning Disability Mortality Review (LeDeR) report is due to be published and NHS England and NHS Improvement will publish its second ‘LeDeR: Action from Learning’ report at the same time so it is timely that Health Education England, Skills for Care and the Department of Health and Social care can announce that they have selected the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD), Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Mencap Society/National Autistic Society and Pathways Associates CIC as trial partners and the National Development Team for inclusion have been selected as the evaluation partner.

I would like to put on record my thanks to everyone who put forward bids and the selection panels for their time and expertise.  We had a positive response to our search for partners - with 27 partnerships representing over 200 organisations submitting proposals for the trials and five for the evaluation.’   ‘I am grateful for Paula McGowan and many others who have campaigned tirelessly and  raised the important need for greater education and training of health and care staff in Learning disability and Autism.   There are too many examples where experiences and outcomes for people needs to improve and part of this has to be greater awareness and training of our staff.’  - Mark Radford, Chief Nurse, Heath Education England

‘Oliver’s story is heart-breaking and I wholeheartedly support Paula’s campaign to make sure no other family faces what she has had to endure.‘And that’s why I am proud to be responsible for taking forward the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training programme, so all health and social care staff will receive training in learning disabilities and autism to provide them with the confidence and skills to understand the needs of those in their care.

‘This training must be developed and delivered hand in hand with those who have learning disabilities and autistic people, so we can tackle bias and unconscious attitudes, and promote a positive culture of care.’ - Minister for Care Helen Whately

‘I have always said that I believed Oliver’s death could have been avoided and that better training for healthcare staff might have made all the difference.  

I am extremely pleased to see that the new training is now coming closer to being a reality. I am proud that it will carry Oliver’s name and I hope it ensures that in future everyone with learning disabilities and autism gets access to the levels of high quality care that they need and deserve’ - Oliver’s mum Paula McGowan


Want more information about the trials and evaluation?

Skills for Care is coordinating all enquiries about the trials and evaluation, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care, and Health Education England. If you have a question, please email us or the HEE.

You can also find out more information about the training on Health Education England webstie.


How did we find our partners?

We used procurement processes that included the direct involvement of people with lived and professional expertise and made sure they were active in every stage. We made it clear that autistic people, people with a learning disability and family carers must be involved in every stage of the trials and must be appropriately remunerated for their work.

There was an assessment panel for the trials and a separate panel for the evaluation contract, each panel included representatives from:

  • Workforce Autism Group for England
  • Health Education England
  • Skills for Care
  • Department of Health and Social Care
  • NHS England and NHS Improvement
  • Workforce Expert by Experience advisory Panel, and
  • The Local Government Association

On each panel there was at least one autistic person, one person with a learning disability and one family carer, who each represented a network of other people with lived experience.  On the trial panel six of the 12 members were people representing lived experience and on the evaluation panel 5 of the 11 were.

The panels reviewed all the bids and shortlisted those which met the quality criteria.  This included the breadth of health and social care staff and how they would make sure that autism and learning disability are clearly differentiated in their training.  Bidders meeting the quality threshold were invited to give a short presentation and answer some further clarification questions. Once the panels had assured themselves of the quality of the bids, an exercise was then done to assess the costs and benefits of all the proposals that met the quality required. New trial and evaluations partners are each leading a consortia of diverse organisations and networks involving 56 organisations.

All lead bidders have received notification and been offered a feedback video meeting.


Individual service fund workforce guide

Skills for Care has developed an Individual Service Fund workforce guide where someone who needs care and support chooses an organisation to manage the budget on their behalf. The guide shares key workforce learning and benefits of ISFs; how to introduce and implement them and how to overcome some of the challenges, as well as some of the learning and development implications.

Visit the Commissioning page to find out more information and download the guide.


The Core Capabilities Framework for Supporting Autistic People sets out the skills and knowledge that health and social care workers need to deliver high-quality care and support for people with autism.

You can use it to support the development and planning of the workforce, and to inform the design and delivery of education and training programmes. 

Skills for Care was involved in developing the framework in 2019:

Our Autism awareness learning resources lists training materials that have been developed by a range of organisations in the sector. The materials can help you to increase awareness and understanding of autism, so that your workforce better recognise and respond to the needs of autistic people.

Here are some other resources we've developed. 

  • How to do a great assessment for someone who has autism will be useful for social workers, community care assessors, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and other health professionals, including those who are working to assess people for benefit claims. It will provide these workers with the knowledge to undertake assessments with autistic people. 
  • How to be a great autistic individual employer is for autistic individual employers who are employing a personal assistant(s) for themselves or on behalf of an autistic person.
  • How to be a great personal assistant for someone with autism is for personal assistants who are providing care and support for an autistic person.


Everyone has the right to have meaningful personal relationships, including people with learning disabilities and/ or autistic people.

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 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 you can create a workforce development programme. 

This research report (published in December 2018) explores the adult social care workforce supporting people with learning disabilities and/or autistic people, using data from the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care. 

Here are some of the key findings. 

  • There were an estimated 665,000 jobs in the learning disabilities and/or autism workforce. 
  • 57,600 workers were in the local authority sector and 575,000 were in the independent sector. 

Download the full report.