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, and we have resources to help.  

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 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. 

⇨ Create an account 

Already have an account?

Login and click on 'Update your contact preferences' under the 'Manage account settings' box. Then select the ‘Learning disability and/or autism’ option under the ‘Areas of interest’ section. 

⇨ Login to your account

Read the latest newsletters: 

➥ November 2020 ➥ October 2020 | ➥ September 2020 | ➥ August 2020 | ➥ July 2020 | ➥ June 2020 | ➥ April 2020 | ➥ January 2020 | ➥ October 2019


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 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. 

Download the worked examples 

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.