Learning disability

We estimate that over half a million adult social care workers support people who have 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 have a range of resources to help support the workforce and they explain what skills and knowledge workers need to support people with a learning disability, their carers and families, and how adult social care employers can develop their staff. We facilitate an 'expert group of people with a learning disability and autistic people' to make sure the resources meet sector needs.

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Recent projects

Skills for Care and HEE are co-ordinating the development of training that aims to make sure staff working in health and social care receive learning disability and autism training, at the right level for their role. They'll have a better understanding of people’s needs, resulting in better services and improved health and wellbeing outcomes. The training is also being co-produced and delivered by autistic people, people with a learning disability and family carers to make sure it meets their needs.

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.

Following Oliver McGowans death, in November 2019 the Government published 'Right to be heard' its response to the consultation on proposals for introducing mandatory learning disability and autism training for health and social care staff. The response included a commitment to develop a standardised training package and it will draw on existing best practice, the expertise of people with autistic people, people with a learning disability and family carers as well as subject matter experts.

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 HEE.

Visit the Health Education England website to find out more about Oliver's campaign, the trial partners, what the training looks like and some useful FAQs.

Health Education England has commissioned NDTi and Skills for Care to develop a resource to support people working in health and social care who don’t regularly support people with a learning disability and/or autistic people to understand how to make reasonable adjustments to provide fair and equitable support. There are 5 separate sessions which can be accessed individually or as part of a suite and can be used for self-directed learning, for teams and facilitated sessions.

Improving access to health and social care services by making simple reasonable adjustments is a legal obligation. More importantly it can save lives and significantly improve people’s wellbeing.

I have heard about The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Learning Disability and Autism Training. Is this the same?
No, this learning resource is different to the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training trials and is focussed on making reasonable adjustments. Reasonable adjustments will form an element of the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training; however the trial will cover a much wider content.

Download the A for Adjustment resources.

To read about the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training Trials, vist the HEE website.

When support for people with a learning disability is commissioned well, it can make a significant difference to someone’s’ life.

Skills for Care developed the Level 5 Commissioning for Wellbeing qualification to support the learning and development needs of people who commission social care services. Throughout 2020 Skills for Care, in partnership with Bespoke Consultancy Education, has been delivering a pilot to deliver the qualification with a learning disability and autism focus in the South West.  

This opportunity is now available across the whole of England and open for expressions of interest.

Find out more about this qualification and how to register your interest.

“An interesting and inspiring course for those who are interested in developing their skills and knowledge in the field of LD & ASD Commissioning." 

“Wellbeing needs to be at the heart of commissioning and this course explores the benefits that wellbeing has for us all. I highly recommend this course.”

Learners from the pilot.

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.

Find out more and download the guide.

Skills for Care in partnership with East Sussex County Council (ESCC), Adult Social Care Training Team has developed a guide which sets out how to support people with learning disabilities and autistic people with some of the current COVID-19 challenges. These practical guidelines will help staff, carers and family members support people to adapt their behaviour without increasing anxiety for themselves or the person they’re caring for.

There's also a range of  resources which can be used to support people with learning disabilities and autistic people which include easy read documents, videos, social stories and webinars and they cover a range of topics from COVID-19, communication, face coverings, handwashing and other PPE topics.

Find out more

Skills for Care often hear that if families caring for a child or young person with a learning disability and/or autism had access to tailored learning and development, then those families would be better equipped to support the person they’re caring for as they move from children's services to adult life. Skills for Care set out to determine what published evidence, if any, existed to support this idea.

This report presents the results of a research project commissioned by Skills for Care and conducted by Research Partners. The research took place between October 2018 and April 2019 and the key aims were to investigate the available evidence on the:

  • knowledge and skills family and/or unpaid carers require
  • availability of learning and development for families and carers
  • impact of existing learning and development, particularly on individuals, their care, support delivery and the impact that this has on service use.

Download the full report for more information


Upcoming events

The Oliver McGowan mandatory training in learning disabilities and autism – Stakeholder forum #4

The Oliver McGowan mandatory training in learning disabilities and autism aims to ensure staff working in health and social care receive learning disability and autism training, at the right level for their role.

You can get an overview of this event such as presentations and FAQ's on the HEE website.

Information and resources to support people with a learning disability and/or autism

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

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 reviewing and updating the framework in 2019, alongside Skills for Health, Health Education England and NHS England. 

This updated framework takes into account the findings from the 'Learning Disabilities Mortality Review', which found that there are some health problems that people with a learning disability might get more than other people, or that health services aren’t good at finding and treating. The framework ensures that staff have the skills and knowledge to do something about this.

⇨ Download the framework.  

NICE guidelines

You can also use the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines to help you to plan support, identify what learning and development your staff need in order to meet these guidelines, and as a benchmarking tool to ensure that workforce development is achieving the best possible outcomes for people with a learning disability. 

This guideline focuses on the support that people with a learning disability might need as they get older. 

  • Challenging behaviour and learning disabilities: prevention and interventions for people with learning disabilities whose behaviour challenges

This guideline covers interventions and support for children, young people and adults with a learning disability and behaviours which challenge.

People with a learning disability can be more likely to experience poor mental health. We've developed free resources to help adult social care staff talk to people about their everyday mental health, and enable them to get the support they need. 

The resources include: 

⇨ Read more about the project and the resources

These worked examples are based on real-life scenarios of people with a learning disability and/or autistic people, who display or are at risk of displaying behaviours which challenge. They explain what workforce that individual needs, what skills and knowledge the workforce needs, and how much this training would cost. 

They're for adult social care commissioners and providers, to help you identify learning and development needs and plan support. You can mix and match the examples and draw information from different examples to create your own plan for the person you’re supporting. You can use this template to do this. 

  • If you support someone who has similar care and support needs you can use the examples as a guide or template to plan their workforce and commission learning and development. You could use the worked example to inform specifications or contracts for support services, or make a ‘business case’ for investing in learning and development.

  • If you’re thinking about a population of people in a specific area, you can explore how many people in your area have similar care and support needs to the worked examples, and scale them up to strategically plan and develop the workforce. 

Download our How to use the worked examples'overview. 

We've listed the examples in age order. *Please note, we're still testing them with the sector. Please use the online PDF to ensure you have the most up to date version. Email us if you have any feedback.*

  • Joe - Joe's 12 years old. He has a learning disability, autism and sensory challenges. His behaviour can post a risk to himself. He’s currently in a 52 week long school programme which is a long way from his home. Download his worked example. 

  • Dean - Dean's 15 years old and has a mild learning disability, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. He lives with his parents who are worried and 'can't control him any more'. They're concerned he might be involved in 'mate' or 'petty' crime. ⇨ Download his worked example. 

  • Laura - Laura's 21 years old and has type one diabetes, autism and profound, multiple and severe learning disability. She lives in a specialist residential home but is at risk of being admitted to hospital if this breaks down. ⇨ Download her worked example

  • Ellie - Ellie's 21 and has Asperger's. She has a mild learning disability and history of familial sexual behaviour and abuse. Soon after starting secondary school she developed anxiety and stopped going to school. Ellie is currently in an inpatient setting following her stabbing her aunt at home and exposing herself in public. ⇨ Download her worked example 

  • Daniel - Daniel's currently in a secure hospital under section 37-41 (hospital order given by the crown court). He got into trouble with the police for burglary, then this escalated to aggravated burglary and rape. He was identified in prison as vulnerable and moved to a secure hospital. Daniel has gone through the sex offender’s programme and is now ready for discharge. ⇨ Download his worked example.

  • Hero and Sweet - They are a couple in their twenties and have two children aged under 6. They both have a mild learning disability and Sweet is experiencing post natal depression. They get some hours of support a week with household tasks, and Sweet’s mum helps them too, but children’s services have concerns about their children’s welfare.⇨ Download their worked example. 

  • Jake - Jake's 28 years old. He has a moderate learning disability and poorly controlled diabetes and epilepsy. He lives in a supported living setting with five other people. His support provider feels he’s at risk of admission to in-patient services as his behaviour can be too challenging.⇨ Download his worked example.  

  • Francois - Francois's 32 years old and has mental ill-health, depression, possible ADHD and a history of alcohol and substance misuse. Currently he gets two hours a week support to help with bills and housework

    He lives in a flat but his landlord has given him notice of impending eviction as “the flat is filthy and other tenants in the building have complained about frequent ‘visitors’" He’s under a M.O.J. restriction as he had been arrested and convicted of assault while under the influence of substances and alcohol. ⇨ Download his worked example. 

  • Paul and Doreen - Paul's 50 years old and has autism with no diagnosis of a learning disability, which can sometimes affect his temper and mental health. His Mum, Doreen, supports him at home but her health is deteriorating and she’s worried about how Paul will cope without her. ⇨ Download their worked example. 

  • Doris - Doris is 55 years old and has a learning disability and doesn't use verbal speech. She's lived in a variety of learning disability hospitals before moving into a residential care home. When this broke down, she was admitted as an emergency to a mental health ATU where she's been diagnosed with depression and dementia.⇨ Download her worked example. 

  • Wilf - Wilf's 72 years old and has a mild learning disability and possible dementia. He has been involved in incidents of arson and has lived in a specialist learning disability inpatient services for six years. His responsible clinician thinks he’s had all the treatment he can benefit from and would like him to move into supported living. However his niece Debbie feels he’s safer in hospital.⇨ Download his worked example. 

  • Carol - Carol's 75 years old and is of Chinese origin. She has a moderate learning disability and people think she may be autistic but she has no formal diagnosis. In the past she’s stayed in various assessment and treatment units and hospitals. She’s been living in a supported living setting for eight years. Recently she’s had health issues and has exhibited behaviour which challenges services. However, she doesn’t like seeing a doctor about it.⇨ Download her worked example. 

Everyone has the right to have meaningful personal relationships, including people with a learning disability. 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.

Our 'Supporting people who need care and support to have meaningful relationships' guide 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. 

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 

The Transforming Care Programme is designed to improve services for people with a learning disability and/or autistic people, who display or are at risk of displaying behaviours which challenge, including those with a mental health condition.

It's all about driving system-wide change so that more people can live in the community, with the right support, and close to home. This means that fewer people will need to go into hospital for their care. 

To do this, there needs to be suitable services available in the community. 

The aims of the programme are outlined in the national plan, Building the Right Support. 

We're working with other stakeholders to support the ambitions of the Transforming Care programme, by supporting adult social care services to ensure their workforce is confident and capable to support people with a learning disability in the community.

⇨ Find out more about the Transforming Care Programme 

Positive behavioural support (PBS) is a person-centred approach to people with a learning disability who display or at risk of displaying behaviours which challenge. It involves understanding the reasons for behaviour and considering the person as a whole - including their life history, physical health and emotional needs - to implement ways of supporting the person. It focuses on teaching new skills to replace the behaviour which challenges. 

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

⇨ Find out more about how you can support people who display or are at risk of displaying behaviours which challenge. 

Useful webinars

Good Health and Annual Health Checks

In July 2020 Skills for Care and Learning Disability England led this webinar and it was building on their work with NDTi and VODG on a project to improve access to Annual Health Checks. The session was focused on annual health checks and included some examples of how they can help people despite current Covid restrictions.