A learning disability is a condition which impairs a person’s ability to learn new skills and information. The level and effect of learning disabilities vary widely from person to person. Some people with learning disabilities need close support while others are able to live very independent lives.
Learning disabilities can be caused by many things: they can occur for genetic reasons, such as Down’s Syndrome, by physical problems during pregnancy or lack of oxygen during childbirth. Head injuries or Illnesses such as Meningitis at an early age can also cause learning disabilities.
The government estimates there are around 210,000* people with learning disabilities (receiving support) in the UK, but this figure seems very conservative. They are among the most socially excluded groups in Britain today; very few have jobs, live in their own home or have any real choice in who supports them.
People with learning disabilities are more likely to be affected by conditions such as Autism, or suffer from Epilepsy; they have a shorter life expectancy than the rest of the population and face a lack of choice and opportunity in virtually every aspect of life.
*According to the Valuing People White Paper (2001)
Valuing People Now, a government White Paper published in 2009 identified many of the challenges facing people with learning disabilities and those who support them. The paper set out the Government’s 3 year strategy for people with learning disabilities following consultation. It also responded to the main recommendations in Healthcare for All, the independent inquiry into access to healthcare for people with learning disabilities.