Welcome to the

Learning Disabilities


The Observatory has been set up to provide better information about the health and health care of people with learning disabilities and people with autism in Scotland. The Observatory will generate and translate information into knowledge, that is designed to inform actions, practice and policy to benefit people with learning disabilities and people with autism.

More about us

Health and care experiences

In this short film people with learning disabilities tell us about their experiences of health and health care.


This is Me: Valuing the lives of people with learning disabilities

We are collaborating with the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities, Down's Syndrome Scotland and Promoting a More Inclusive Society (PAMIS) on 'This is Me: Valuing the lives of people with learning disabilities'. This new campaign aims to increase public awareness of the experiences of people with learning disabilities.
Through a series of short films we aim to challenge stigma and discrimination and influence positive change. Find out more about 'This is Me' including how you can get involved. 

Democracy in a Pandemic: Participation in response to Covid


We're excited to announce that "Democracy in a Pandemic: Participation in response to Covid", a new book making the case for a participatory response to crises, will be published on 12th July 2021.  

A blog written by our team members Angela Henderson and Rhiann McLean "Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories: Including People with Learning Disabilities in Policy Development" is published in this book which draws together a diverse range of voices of activists, practitioners, policy makers, researchers and writers.

Further details can be found here 

SLDO film: Reducing avoidable deaths in children and young people with learning disabilities


SLDO researchers have produced a short film which highlights the high rates of death from preventable causes such as choking and chest infections for children and young people with learning/intellectual disabilities.
The film, co-produced with people with learning disabilities and professionals across health, care and research, aims to raise awareness of some key areas for action to reduce avoidable deaths. Watch the film and read more about the research behind it here.

New study looks at the impact of COVID-19 of family carers


A new collaborative study will explore the experiences of family carers of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and co-design an intervention to support their future wellbeing. The research team involves partners at Queen's University Belfast, Trinity College Dublin, the University of South Wales and the University of Sheffield with Dr Maria Truesdale from the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory as the Scottish lead.
Find out more about this study. 

SLDO statement on COVID-19 vaccination priority for people with learning disabilities


We wholeheartedly welcome the decision by the Scottish Government, announced on 22nd February, to invite all people with learning/intellectual disabilities in Scotland for Covid-19 vaccination as part of priority group 6. We also welcome today’s decision by the UK Government to prioritise all people with learning/intellectual disabilities in England for vaccination. These decisions will bring relief to people with learning/intellectual disabilities and their families.

The Observatory team’s analysis of data on COVID-19 mortality and infection risk for the population with learning/intellectual disabilities in Scotland provided robust evidence to support these decisions. Our recent study shows that compared to the general population, people with learning/intellectual disabilities are at 3 times greater risk of death due to Covid-19, twice as likely to become infected with COVID-19 and twice as likely to have a severe COVID-19 infection.  People with learning/intellectual disabilities already experience significantly worse health outcomes and excess mortality compared to the general population. These inequalities are reflected in this important study.

We are encouraged that the vaccine prioritisation has been amended to include this marginalized population and we will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government and health and care professionals to identify ways to further reduce risk of Covid-19 infection for people with learning/intellectual disabilities. 

We stand alongside our colleagues at partner organisations who have worked tirelessly to influence the decision making around vaccine prioritisation and we recognise their invaluable contribution to ensuring that people with learning/intellectual disabilities receive urgently needed care and protection. We would also like to thank Joan McAlpine MSP, Jackie Baillie MSP and Claire Haughey MSP, Minister for Mental Health, for their work in advocating for the needs and rights of people with learning/intellectual disabilities in Scotland.

Published on 24.2.21 

New SLDO study looks at the impact of COVID-19 on people with learning disabilities in Scotland

Researchers at the Observatory recently conducted a study to look at COVID-19 infection and severe outcomes for people with learning disabilities in the first wave of the pandemic, between January and August 2020.

A summary of the preliminary findings from this study is now available.

Latest SLDO research

Reports & publications


We publish reports relevant to learning disabilities and autism policy and practice.

View our full list of reports and publications here.



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Population profiles

Population characteristics

Number of people


with learning disabilities


with autism


all people

All population information


Percentage of people with very good health


with learning disabilities


with autism


all people

All health information

Housing and accomodation

People with learning disabilities in private households


Rented from council or housing association


Private ownership


Rented privately or living rent free

All housing and accommodation information

Employment and Education

People aged 16 and over with learning disabilities


Long term sick or disabled


in paid employment







All employment and education information


Percentage of people who live with a family


with learning disabilities


with autism


all people

Health and social care spending



Health care spending


Social care spending

Other topics

Country of birth

People born within the UK


with learning disabilities


with autism


all people

Language spoken at home

People speaking Gaelic or Scots


with learning disabilities


with autism


all people


People who are white Scottish


with learning disabilities


with autism


all people