Skip to content
You are here: Home | Data | Learning Disability & Autism - Data

Learning Disability & Autism - Data

Man holding sign


What you told us

Read the Consultation Report for the Strategic Plan 2022-25

What the data tells us

Learning Disability

People with a learning disability have a significant, lifelong, condition that started before adulthood, which affected their development, and means they need help to understand information; learn skills; and cope independently. The learning disability population in Midlothian is growing as are the complexities of their needs.

1,722 people have a learning disability (a statistical estimate). There is a wide variation in reported rate, particularly for people with a mild learning disability.

755 adults with a Learning Disability are known to Social Care service in Midlothian.

Midlothian has a higher prevalence rate of adults with a learning disability known to Social Care (6.3 per 1,000) in comparison to the Scottish average (5.2) (2019). This is related to the closure of several local hospital facilities in the 90s. Learning disabilities is the highest area of spend in Midlothian based on client group and spend per head.

Currently, approximately 30 (14–18-year-olds) have been identified as having significant support needs and who are transitioning between children and adult services (2020).

113 pupils are on the Saltersgate school roll (Primary and Secondary). This includes some pupils in St. David’s High School who as of August 2019 are no longer counted as part of Saltersgate. As a result the 2019/2020 register was slightly lower at 100 pupils. These are a group of young people who will likely meet the criteria for support from Adults Services when transitioning into adulthood.

In Midlothian, 89.5% of adults with learning disabilities do not live with a family carer. This is greater than in the whole of Scotland where it was 43.1% in 2019. The high number of adults with a learning disability living alone in Midlothian might warrant some exploration including consideration of the theme of loneliness.

As a population, people with learning disabilities are experiencing increased life expectancy.  Older adults are proportionally the largest and fastest growing group in the learning disabled population and more young people are surviving into adulthood. As life expectancy has increased, more people with learning disabilities are experiencing multi-morbidities and increased complexity in their health and social care needs.

There are 2 residential care homes registered for adults with a learning disability, there are plans for one of these to deregister. The other provides care to older adults.  There is 1 dedicated respite facility with 3 bedrooms. There is a small team of shared lives carers who share their family and community life offering both daytime and overnight support. There is an increase in support being provided in alternative ways with 27.7% of all funded respite requests in 2020 using options 1,2 or 4 of Self Directed Support.


The Covid-19 Pandemic has impacted on this population group in several ways. They were:

  • more than 3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in the general population.
  • twice as likely as those in the general population to become infected with COVID-19.
  • twice as likely to be hospitalised.

National data highlights that people with learning disabilities are already more likely to experience loneliness than the general population. Coronavirus has exacerbated the issue with 57% of people explicitly stated that they were more lonely than before. 64% of people said their support had changed due to the coronavirus emergency. Many individuals and their families described feeling isolated and abandoned and 58% said they were not getting the support they needed.

During the pandemic there was a shift to digital access for health and social care support. People with a learning disability are four times more likely than those without to never have accessed the internet. Practical barriers such as lack of internet access, restrictive support hours and lack of privacy are compounded by overprotective and discriminatory attitudes.


Autism spectrum disorders

918 people (adults and children) have Autism. This is 1.4% of the population. This figure is consistent with the estimated prevalence of autism in Scotland.

301 of these individuals also have a Learning Disability (32%) again consistent with Scotland. This information is currently not available for adults only. The people who have a diagnosis of Autism but do not have an associated learning disability are less likely to be known to services or identified by services as having Autism

There is no reliable data on the prevalence of Asperger’s Syndrome either nationally or locally due to variances in the definition.

Autism is more prevalent amongst males than females with sex ratios typically ranging from around 2.5 – 6.0: 1.

Nationally it is recorded that there is a high frequency of mental health problems experienced across the autism spectrum, particularly in relation to the prevalence of anxiety and depression. Other common conditions which are known to concur with ASD, include epilepsy, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and Tourette’s Syndrome.