36 Vital Learning Disability Statistics for the UK in 2024

Having problems reading and writing, not being able to do basic mathс, poor coordination or the inability to tell time, and trouble following instructions or making sense of new concepts are all aspects of learning disabilities.

Learning disability statistics for the UK show where the barriers lie to making the lives of people with learning difficulties more fruitful and satisfying. Much of the responsibility falls on local authorities, the school system, and employers. 

However, the following stats we curated at Mark in Style give us a clue to how we, too, can make an effort to close the gap.

Let’s dive right in.

Top 10 Facts About Disability (Editor’s Choice)

  • One in six people in Europe has a disability or a long-standing health problem.
  • There are more than seven million disabled people in Britain.
  • Only 17% of disabled were born with their impairment.
  • 14.4% of students in England have special education needs.
  • There are 1,130,000 individuals with a learning disability in the UK.
  • Around 193,707 school children in the UK have a learning disability.
  • Learning disability support in 2018 amounted to £5.5 billion.
  • The life expectancy of women with learning disabilities is 18 years shorter than the average.
  • Around 50% of learning disabled live in their family home.
  • Only 6% of adults with a learning disability in England are in paid employment.

General Disability Statistics

1. Disability affects anywhere from 10% to 20% of a country’s population.

(ONS, University of St Andrews)

The definition of disability by the Equality Act 2010 and the Government Statistical Service states that a person is disabled if they have a long-standing illness condition or impairment that causes difficulties in everyday activities. Altogether, there are around 650 million disabled people across the world.

2. There are 39 million disabled people in Europe, learning disability statistics reveal.

(University of St Andrews)

In the age group from 16 to 64, one in six people in Europe has either a long-standing health problem, a disability, or both. The percentage is expected to rise as the current population grows older.

An Introduction to Disability in the UK

learning disability statistics for the uk

3. More than seven million people in Britain are disabled.

(University of St Andrews)

How many disabled people in the UK are there? 

Over seven million.


Looking at the percentage of disabled in the UK, we can work out that around 18% of the working-age population is disabled. Some research shows the number of disabled in the UK is over 11 million; however, these numbers often include various forms of illness.

4. Just 17% of disabled were born with the condition they have.

(University of St Andrews)

Up to 78% of disabled start having issues after 16 years of age. An additional 2% of the workforce gains an impairment every year. Disability rates show that disability affects around 25% of the entire population, either directly or indirectly.

One of the first things that pop to mind when we hear the word disability is a person in a wheelchair. Interestingly, though, only 8% of disabled individuals in the UK use a wheelchair.

5. Wales has the highest percentage of disabled in the UK, 26%.

(Papworth Trust)

The percentage of disabled people in the UK in 2016 by region is:

  • Wales 26%
  • North East and the North West of England 25% 
  • Scotland 22% 
  • Northern Ireland 21% 
  • South East of England 19%
  • Yorkshire and Humber 20% 
  • East of England 20%

6. The local authority with the lowest percentage of disabled is Wandsworth, with 11.2%.

(Papworth Trust)

The quality of life and access or restriction to participation in social life and education differs by region. For example, those living in the North and the South West of England have the highest number of areas they feel excluded from. 

In contrast, the West Midlands and South East have the lowest number of life areas where the disabled feel any restrictions.

The Local Authorities with the highest percentage of disabled, including people with a limiting long-term condition, are:

  • East Lindsey 26% 
  • Blackpool 25.6%
  • Tendring 25.5%

The lowest levels can be found in:

  • Wandsworth 11.2% 
  • Richmond upon Thames 11.5% 
  • The City of London 11.5%

7. Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) carers make up 20% of the social care workforce.

(Papworth Trust)

The total population of England is less diverse (14%) than the workforce in adult care. Still, the disabled coming from BAME communities have issues finding care and reaching the services they need. This makes their life experience and overall outcomes worse than the rest of the population. 

8. One in four disabled individuals in the UK has two impairments.

(University of St Andrews, Remploy)

One in ten people in the UK has three or more impairments.

The most common disabilities in the UK for adults are connected to difficulty in mobility, lifting, and carrying. However, in children, mental conditions and learning and communication issues are more common than physical disabilities. Participating in sports in and out of school can help children improve their wellbeing. 

But it gets worse:

[bctt tweet=”Disability rates grow with age. While 1 in 20 children are disabled, the number is one in seven for adults and nearly one in two for seniors.” via=”no”]

The list of recognised disabilities in the UK is as follows:

  • Acquired brain injury
  • Anxiety disorders and stress
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Disability etiquette
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Epilepsy
  • Hearing Impairment (deafness)
  • Learning disability
  • Limb loss
  • Mental health
  • Migraine
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Visual impairment (blindness)

9. 23% of disabled people between 21 and 64 years have a degree.


That’s over 18% lower than the rate for non-disabled, at 39.7%. In addition, a full 15.1% of disabled are without any qualifications, in contrast to 5.4% of the rest of the population according to stats from June 2020.

10. 14.4% of students in England had special educational needs in England, learning disability statistics for the UK from 2017 reveal.

(Department for Education)

This represented a rise from 1,228,785 in 2016 to 1,244,255 in 2017. Disabled students choose art and design more often than the non-disabled group, and by more than double – 14.7% compared to 6.5%. The courses they are least likely to chose are business and administration, 8.2% compared to 14.9% in the group without disability. 

11. Around half of disabled people of working age are employed.


Around 52.1% of all disabled in the UK had a job in 2020, compared to 81.3% of non-disabled. Those with autism had the lowest success rates.

Disability facts show that in 2020:

  • 40.9% of disabled owned their home
  • 24.9% have rented social housing 

Up to 41.5% participated in civic engagements in 2019, compared to only 35.1% of the rest of the population. Despite that, 13.9% said they are often or always lonely. Additionally, anxiety levels were almost twice as high as those of the non-disabled group.

12. A March 2020 survey revealed around one in seven disabled people experienced domestic abuse in the previous year.


Around 14.3% of disabled from the 16 to 59 age group living in England and Wales reported experiencing domestic abuse in the previous year. The percentage among the rest of the population is 5.1%

The chances of abuse double for disabled women compared to non-disabled women. 17.5% experienced domestic abuse in the 12 months compared to 6.7% in the rest of the population.

13. Around one million people in England received social care support in 2017/18.


Total public spending on adult social care was £17.9 billion, out of which £14.5 billion was used for adults care.

The distribution of social care support in 2017/2018 looked like this:

  • Learning disability support: 38% or £5.5 billion
  • Physical support: 43% or £6.2 billion
  • Memory/Cognition support: 9% or £1.3 billion
  • Mental health support: 9% or  £1.2 billion
  • Sensory support: 1% or £0.16 billion

Even More Learning Disability Statistics

14. According to learning disability statistics for the UK, around 1.5 million people in Great Britain have some kind of learning disability. 


Out of those, 1.2 million individuals with a learning disability are in England. This means they have problems with learning new skills, understanding new or complex information, or managing to function independently.


The causes of learning disability include complications or illness during pregnancy and Illness or injury in early childhood or at childbirth. Sometimes, there is no known cause. People with conditions such as Down Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, or epilepsy are more likely to have a learning disability as well. 

Looking at the number of adults with a learning disability, there are:

  • 1,130,000 in the UK
  • 951,000 in England
  • 54,000 in Wales
  • 31,000 in Northern Ireland

15. There are 869,000 adults aged 18 to 64 with a learning disability in the UK.


Among the working-age population, there are:

  • 731,000 individuals with a learning disability in England
  • 40,000 individuals with a learning disability in Wales
  • 25,000 individuals learning disability in Northern Ireland

16. There are 351,000 children up to 17 years of age with a learning disability, learning disability statistics for the UK confirm.


  • 299,000 in England
  • 16,000 in Wales
  • 11,000 in Northern Ireland

In the age group from 0 to 5, there are:

  • 118,000 children with a learning disability in the UK
  • 101,000 in England
  • 5,000 in Wales
  • 4,000 in Northern Ireland

17. According to learning disability statistics for the UK, There are approximately 120,000 people with a learning disability in Scotland.


Around 26,786 adults with a learning disability live in Scotland. Looking at school children, there are around 15,324 children that need assistance due to learning disabilities. However, many do not have social care support.

18. There are around seven million carers in the UK.


This means roughly one in ten people is a carer, and three in five will be a carer at some point in their lives. This number is expected to rise to nine million by 2037. There are 628,000 full-time carers in the UK workforce. Around 57% of them are women, and 43% are men.

19. 83% of people that were carers say they are not valued enough. 


And the public agrees: 

Only 10% think that unpaid carers are valued by society to an extent they should be. Keep in mind that there are around 1.3 million carers who work over 50 hours a week. In 466,000 homes with all adults working full-time jobs, one household member is a care worker providing adult care.

20. Four out of five UK children with SEN have a moderate level of learning difficulty.


Around 1 child in 20 has profound multiple learning difficulties (PMLD). Coming from a poor background increases the possibility of learning difficulties and disability.

What’s more:

According to learning statistics, around 193,707 school children in the UK have a learning disability. In addition, 34% of autistic children reveal that being picked on by their peers is what bothers them most about school. So, it should come as no surprise that SEN teacher jobs are in high demand.

21. Around half of learning disabled individuals live in their family homes.

(Learning disabilities)

The number of seniors over 70 in need of social care services will double in the next ten years.

At the moment:

  • 58,000 people use daycare or opportunity services.
  • 29,000 adults live with parents that are no longer capable of being full-time carers, as they are 70 and older. 
  • One in four such cases has an alternative housing solution planned by local authorities.

22. The life expectancy of learning disabled women is four years lower than that of disabled men on average.


According to public health England statistics, women with learning disabilities face a significantly shorter life span than others. Their life expectancy is 18 years shorter on average than the rest of the population. For men, life expectancy is 14 years lower than that of men without learning disabilities.

23. Individuals with learning disabilities have more than double the chance of other health issues.


A shorter life span in people with learning disabilities is tied to the fact that they are 2.5 times more likely to have other health problems.

Check this out:

Serious sight problems are 10 times more frequent. And the more serious the learning disability is, the higher the likelihood. 

Additionally, learning disabled people aged 18 to 35 are twice as likely to be overweight as the general population. However, when it comes to people over 64, the problem is the opposite. Seniors with a learning disability are twice as likely to be underweight as other individuals in their age group.

24. Up to 40% of people with a learning disability have mental health issues.

(Mencap, Learning disabilities)

Mental health is fragile with people experiencing learning disabilities. In fact, between 25% and 40% of them have mental health problems. Around 2500 of those with learning disabilities in mental health hospitals are considered a danger to others or themselves. About 10%-15% of adults with learning disabilities display aggression, destruction, or self-injury, especially in the age group between 20 and 49.

25. Learning disability statistics for the UK from 2020 show over 2000 people with learning disabilities were in a mental health hospital in November 2020.

(NHS Digital)

A Mental Health Services Data Set for November 2020, published in January 2021, shows the numbers of patients with a learning disability:

  • 75 individuals admitted to the hospital
  • 115 discharged from the hospital
  • 2,060 at the hospital at the end of the month

26. 228,315 children had a primary SEN connected to a learning disability in 2019.


Around 29% of all children with a statement of SEN or an EHC plan (Education, Health and Care) have primary SEN directly related to learning disability. In 2018, 67,765 children in England had primary SEN due to learning disability.

27. Over half of the learning disabled say they feel lonely.


This number goes up to a disturbing 77% for younger people aged 18 to 34. These feelings are stronger if there are physical or mental issues and can greatly be affected by the quality of social life.

The thing is:

Feeling like a part of the community and engaging with others is crucial for mental health and overall wellbeing. Yet, one in three young individuals with learning disabilities doesn’t spend more than one hour outside the house on a Saturday, according to the 2019 stats.

28. 44% of individuals with a learning disability had less than 30 minutes of exercise a week in 2018.


Around 150 minutes of exercise should be the norm for adults. Some 67.4% of people without disability manage to reach that goal. Compared to that, only 43% of people with a learning disability successfully get those hours. 

What’s worse:

Up to 44% get less than 30 minutes in one week.

Types of Learning Disabilities

29. There are six most common learning disabilities.

(Read and Spell, Kent, Springer, Mental Health Foundation)

The difference between learning difficulties and learning disabilities is that a disability shows up in all areas of life. In contrast, difficulty is specific to a particular area of learning. They often go together and might overlap, but difficulty does not have an effect on the person’s IQ.


The learning disability definition states that a learning disability is an impairment that affects a person for their entire life. It is a reduced intellectual ability due to which learning is affected to the point of making it difficult to manage everyday activities.  

The most common signs of learning disability are:

  • Attention problems
  • Memory issues
  • Impaired reading and/or writing.
  • Problems with math and problem solving
  • Poor organisational skills
  • Difficulty with following directions or telling time
  • Lack of fine motor skills

A specific learning difficulty or SpLD is an issue with particular parts of learning.

Some of the most common learning disabilities and difficulties are:

Dyslexia – causes difficulties in sounding out words when reading and mastering spelling. This impacts the overall progress and all subjects in the curriculum. With developmental dyslexia, poor decoding skill is the main obstacle to reading.

ADHD, ADD – stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. It is characterised by concentration problems, impulsive behaviour, and low focus. This causes the student to have trouble following lessons and completing tasks. 

Dyspraxia – also known as developmental coordination disorder. It’s a problem with fine motor skills that can be accompanied by a lack of organisational skills. These influence waiting and overall performance.

Dysgraphia – an issue with forming letters, spacing them, sometimes lining them up along an x-axis. These individuals have trouble with writing and translating the spoken to the written word. 

Processing difficulties – this affects how the brain processes information. It takes longer for a person to understand and follow instructions or, in case of visual processing, affects reading or writing.

Dyscalculia – sometimes called maths dyslexia. Dyscalculia is a learning disability that influences a person’s ability to learn maths concepts, perform basic operations, do calculations, and solve maths problems.

30. Up to 60% to 70% of people on the autistic spectrum will also have a learning disability, learning disability statistics for the UK confirm.


There are over 700,000 people on the autistic spectrum in the UK, which means that 1 in 100 people has an autism spectrum condition. Autism is more common in those with a severe learning disability or lower verbal IQ. The autism rate is highest among people with no education (2.1%) and lowest among those with a degree.

Job Outlook Disability Statistics for the UK

31. Disabled people are four times more likely to be without a job or not in education by age 26.


Compared to people without disabilities, disabled people have to apply for 60% more jobs before they manage to find a job. While 69% of non-disabled people get invited to interviews, in the disabled group, that percentage is around 51%.

But wait! There’s more:

Disclosing the information about their disability with the employer was a cause of concern for more than 48% of the disabled. And with good reason, given that one in five employers confess they are less likely to employ a disabled person. That’s only counting those that are willing to say it.

[bctt tweet=”Overall, the disabled are twice as likely to be out of work than the rest.” via=”no”]

32. Only 6% of adults with a learning disability in England are employed and getting paid.


Learning disability statistics for the UK from 2018 and 2019 show that:

  • 52% of working-age with any kind of disability were employed in 2019.
  • 4.2% of adults with a learning disability in Scotland were employed in 2018.
  • London and Eastern regions have the highest percentage of employed with a learning disability, 7.5%, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber, at 7.4%
  • 17% of adults with a learning disability in England were registered as employed in 2008, compared to 6% in 2018.
  • According to the NHS, 28% of adults with a mild or moderate learning disability were employed in 2008.
  • 10% of adults with a severe learning disability were employed in 2008.
  • 0% of adults with profound/multiple learning disabilities were employed in 2008.

33. Around 47.3% of adults with a disability in Wales had a job in 2018.


The Labour Force Survey shows that 47.3% of disabled people aged 16 to 64 were in paid employment, compared to 80.6% of non-disabled people in Wales. 

Like its Welsh counterpart, the Northern Irish government doesn’t keep a record of people with learning disabilities in paid employment. However, the LFS records that 34.9% of individuals with a long-term disability in Northern Ireland had a job in 2018, compared to 80.1% of the non-disabled.

34. One in three disabled people report that the prejudice related to disability is still high in Britain.

(Scope, Mencap

Stereotypes and misconceptions about disabled people, their productivity, capabilities, and the levels of special care they need have created a perception gap.

Here’s the deal:

One in three disabled individuals says there is a lot of prejudice towards them. However, only one in five non-disabled people will agree with the claim.

Discrimination statistics for the UK show that up to 32% of people believed that disabled people aren’t as productive as the rest, according to the 2017 British Attitudes Survey.  This leads to a lack of equal opportunities in all areas of life and even self-stigma in special needs adults. Additionally, children with special needs are twice as likely to be mistreated or bullied in schools.

35. Around 32% of people with learning disabilities report people being rude and offensive to them.


This means every third individual with a learning disability was treated poorly because of their impairment. Among those with a moderate or mild disability, that percentage is 33%. The corresponding figure is 31% among those with severe disabilities and a bit less among those with profound and multiple learning disabilities. 

And finally:

36. 134% more people with learning disabilities died during the Covid pandemic than usual.

(Disability Rights UK)

Care Quality Commission mentioned this rise in the death rate and pointed out that people with a learning disability are at an increased risk of respiratory illnesses. So, the availability of testing is the key to saving their lives.

According to the health statistics for the UK, in the period from 10 April to 15 May 2020, there were 386 deaths of people with a learning disability. This number was 165 in the same time interval in 2019.

Given that their life expectancy can be up to 20 years less than the general population, this group is especially sensitive even without a global pandemic.

The Bottom Line

Learning disability statistics for the UK indicate that the perception of disability and the real degree of impairment are often skewed. Disabled people are still seen as much less productive than they really are. The general population also assumes they need a lot of extra care and adjustments in the workplace and education system. 


While this may be true for severe cases, institutions can accommodate the disabled far more easily than they might expect. Special attention is needed for hidden disabilities. Finally, the adjustments made by the workplace or school can be critical to the quality of life of disabled individuals.

People Also Ask

How many people in the UK have a learning disability?

Around 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability, according to learning disability prevalence data for the UK from 2016 from Public Health England and the population stats from Office for National Statistics in 2019.

What percentage of the UK has a learning disability?

According to the learning disability UK data, around 2.16% of adults have a learning disability, as well as approximately 2.5% of children.

What percentage of the population has a learning disability?

Around 5% to 9% of the population has some form of learning disability. 

How common is a learning disability?

1 in 100 people or 1% of the population in England has a learning disability.

What ratio of students with disabilities have a learning disability?

14.4% of students in England have learning disabilities, according to learning disability statistics for the UK.




University of St Andrews


Papworth Trust


Learning disabilities






Disability Rights UK



NHS Digital

High Speed Training

Department for Education


Learning disabilities

Springer Link







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