Lancaster University

This is archived news from Lancaster University. You can find up-to-date stories in our current news section.

Lancaster University carries out first national adult learning difficulty survey

10/07/2005 13:50:48

Researchers at Lancaster University have helped carry out the first ever national survey about the life experiences of adults with learning difficulties in England. The survey, funded by the Department for Health, is also the first of its kind in the world.

Eric Emerson, Professor of Disability & Health Research in Lancaster University’s Institute for Health Research is first author of the survey report published,Wednesday, 29th Sept, by the Department of Health’s newly established Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The survey focused on what life is like for people with learning disabilities, including where they live and with whom, what they do during the day and what are their needs, wants and aspirations. It also collected views on the support received by individuals. It involved face-to-face interviews with about 3,000 adults with learning difficulties.

People with learning difficulties were centrally involved at every stage of the survey from awarding the contract, deciding what questions to ask and how to ask them, training the interviewers, making sense out of the results and writing the report.

The results highlight the extent of hardship and social exclusion faced by people with learning difficulties with regard to material hardship, employment and social and civic participation.

They also highlight how little control many people with learning difficulties have over important aspects of their lives (e.g.,who to live with and where to live).

Finally, they show that some people with learning difficulties are more likely to be socially excluded and face adversity than others. People with learning disabilities from poorer backgrounds and from minority ethnic communities are at particular risk.

The survey was conducted by a consortium led by BMRB Social Research, with Lancaster University and Central England People First, a self-advocacy group for people with learning difficulties.

Professor Evans commented “Lancaster University’s Institute for Health Research is one of the leading centres in Europe for research related to understanding and improving the life experiences of people with learning disabilities. Other work undertaken in IHR has evaluated the impact (and costs) of a range of health and social care services, explored future patterns of need for services and addressed the situation of families bringing up a child with learning disabilities.

The report is available from

Key findings:

§ One in six people with learning disabilities who were of ‘working age’ (17%) had a paid job. Generally in the UK, 67% of men and 53% of women of ‘working age’ have paid jobs.

§ Nearly three in four people (72%) had been to a special school. One in ten (10%) had been to a special unit in a mainstream school. Less than one in five (18%) had been to ordinary classes in mainstream school.

§ One in three people (32%) said they did not feel safe either in their homes, their local area or using public transport.

§ Nearly one in ten people (9%) said they had been the victim of crime in the last year. People with learning disabilities were less likely to be a victim of crime than other people, but they were slightly more likely to be attacked.

§ 85% of people said that their health was `good’ or ‘very good’.

§ Two out of three people in supported accommodation (64%) had no choice over with whom or where they lived.

§ One in ten people (10%) with learning disabilities living in private households helped care for another adult who was elderly, ill or had a disability.