One in Ten Disabled People Have Complex Disabilities

One in ten disabled people in the UK have complex disabilities. That’s according to new research, published today by the national disability charity, Sense, that shows for the first time the scale of disabilities in the country.

The research, developed in partnership with the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), says that of the 14.1million disabled people living in the UK, 1.6 million people have complex disabilities. This figure is expected to grow to 2 million by the end of the decade.

Complex disabilities – or complex needs – commonly describe a person living with two or more disabilities who may require high levels of support. These needs may be from birth, or following illness or injury, or they may develop with age. The individual may need support from a range of health and social care services.

This is the first time an estimate, with regional breakdowns, down to local authority and constituency level, has been made on the number of children and adults with complex disabilities. Research in this area has been limited, and the lack of robust and accurate data has meant that local authorities and the NHS have not been able to adequately plan and commission services.

Sense, who provide specialist support to people living with complex disabilities, say that the failure to recognise the inter-connected nature of people’s needs has resulted in gaps in service provision. Where someone’s needs are not understood, complex needs can result in challenging behaviour, resulting in services that are not delivered in a way that meets that person’s needs.

Sense wants to see a systematic approach to transform the care and support for people with complex disabilities who deserve better support than they currently receive. This will necessitate a cultural shift towards people-centred and holistic support that enables more inclusive lives.

Richard Kramer, Sense Chief Executive, said:
“We know that services for disabled people with complex needs are required by more and more people.

This ground-breaking research helps to deepen our understanding of the scale of disabilities in the UK. It will mean that, for the first time, local authorities and the NHS will have information and data to understand the number of people with complex disabilities living in their area.

Too often support and services are based around individual conditions and disabilities rather than looking at an individual’s range of needs.

As a result, people with complex disabilities often struggle to get the care and support they need.

We hope that this research will provide a significant milestone and enable local authorities and the NHS to use this information to develop a joined-up approach to policy making, assessment of need, service delivery and support.

It will also encourage providers to tailor their support to better meet the needs of people with complex disabilities, allowing them to achieve the best possible outcomes.”

Dr Sokratis Dinos, Director of Health at NatCen, said:
“For the first time, this research shows the wide variation in the number of people estimated to have complex disabilities in different local authorities and constituencies.

The findings highlight that some areas have more people with complex disabilities aged 65 or over, while other areas have more local people of working age with complex disabilities.

These insights can help with understanding the needs of people experiencing complex disabilities living in different areas, and the services best suited to assist them.

We hope this research will support and inform the delivery of local services for people with complex disabilities across the UK.”

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