Research into coronavirus and people with learning disabilities

Olivia Miller
Picture by Unsplash

Article originally posted on 29 June 2021, updated with additional new findings on 19 July 2021.


This study is about coronavirus (also called Covid-19) and people with learning disabilities.

Researchers including Dr Jill Bradshaw and Dr Nick Gore from Kent’s Tizard Centre did this study to hear from people with learning disabilities.

The researchers talked to nearly 600 adults with learning disabilities. They talked to people living in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Nearly 300 family carers or paid supporters of people with severe or profound multiple learning disabilities also gave them information.

This report is about what they have found so far. Please click the button on the research topics you would like to know more about below.

What we know about vaccinations (Study results)

What we know about digital lives (Study results)

What we know about Access to Health and Social Care Services (Study results).

What we know about People with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (Study results).

What we know about Carers (Study results).

What we know about Risks and Covid-19 (Study results).

This has been written in Easy Read style. Easy Read is a way of making information more accessible to people with learning disabilities.

For this study, Dr Bradshaw is liaising with groups working with and caring for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. People with profound and multiple learning disabilities are a small group but a group who have big needs. This group and the people who care for and support them, can feel excluded from research.

Dr Bradshaw said: ‘I have been working in particular around ensuring that those with the most complex challenges are able to have their experiences of Covid-19 included in our research. This has included setting up and working with a group of family carers and paid support staff across the UK. We have been working with this group to finalise our questions for the final wave of the study and to help us make sense of our findings. I have also been using my expertise as a speech and language therapist and leading on producing easy read outputs that are more accessible to people with learning disabilities, who often need additional support to access information.

‘We are very concerned about the impact that lifting restrictions will have on people with learning disabilities. In our study, 36% of people with learning disabilities who self-reported and 76% of people with more severe and profound learning disabilities have a health condition that would be a worry if the person had coronavirus. We know that at our last wave of data collection (April/May 2021) 9% of people with learning disabilities we spoke to and more than one in three people with more severe or profound learning disabilities were still shielding.  Covid-19 rates continue to climb. Will this result in even more people with learning disabilities needing to shield?’

Dr Gore is part of the wider research team and has been advising on question design and assisting with recruitment.

More information about this study can be found on the University of Warwick’s Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) ‘Coronavirus and people with learning disabilities’ webpage.