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Supporting offenders with learning disabilities to live safely in the community: negotiating policy and practice to promote social inclusion and rehabilitation


This study set out to strengthen social care and support for people with learning disabilities who offend, by focusing on the tension and challenges experienced within close support relationships. Around a quarter of people with learning disabilities may be suspected or convicted of committing an offence at some point over the course of their life. Alongside the difficulties associated with learning disabilities, those who offend (as with the rest of the offender population) are more likely to have adverse historic life circumstances, mental ill health, and/or substance misuse issues. At the same time, abusive relationships, poor social networks, and a lack of regular planned activities are all strongly related to offending behaviour in people with learning disabilities. This complex array of concerns can make providing social care very challenging.


2012 – 2014

Research team

Jill Manthorpe, SCWRU; Tony Holland (Principal Investigator), Jessica Wheeler, Isabel Clare, Loraine Gelsthorpe, Liz Jones (University of Cambridge), Michael Dunn (University of Oxford).


National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Social Care Research


The project used a large collection of interviews with community-based offenders with learning disabilities, including interviews with their carers, support workers, service managers, and the full range of practitioners involved in their social care provision. The analysis of this material was informed and guided by three research advisory groups: i) people with learning disabilities who have offended; ii) carers, support workers, and other social care practitioners; and iii) service managers and commissioners of social care. The research team and advisory groups identified key challenges within support relationships and their implications for social care.

Findings and outputs

Following a stakeholder consensus event in Cambridge in 2014, the final report to the NIHR School for Social Care Research and to practice and research communities will be in 2015.

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