Estimating the Future Number of People with Learning Disabilities Drawing on Adult Social Care Services in Scotland

A discussion paper based on replicated analysis for Scotland

The work in this discussion paper contributes to the Fraser of Allander Institute’s latest programme of research looking at the lives of people with learning disabilities in Scotland. As explained in our report from May 2023, our current programme of work on data looks at how we move from identifying issues towards building solutions.

Given the ongoing policy debate and legislative process around the creation of a National Care Service (NCS), we felt that the lack of evidence and analysis around those who draw on social care was an important place to build capacity.

This discussion paper attempts to replicate analysis previously conducted by the Centre for Disability Research (CeDR) at Lancaster University on behalf of Mencap for England.

The CeDR work has featured in projections of adult social care need in England produced by the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre (CPEC) at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). We envisage that the new Scottish National Care Service will need projections of the number of people who draw on adult social care in Scotland in order to plan and operate effectively. The evidence for people with learning disabilities is a crucial part of the picture that we are keen is not overlooked.

It is important to note that there is thought to be considerable unmet need in the social care system. The NCS hopes, among other things, to reduce this unmet need, but as yet we have no understanding of how or when this will be achieved. This discussion paper focuses on projecting ‘met’ need – that is, under current eligibility criteria, how many adults will draw on social care need in the future.

There are a number of areas where data improvement is needed before we can be confident of the figures that this analysis is producing are robust enough to use for planning purposes. This is why we have framed this as a ‘discussion paper’, rather than a ‘report’. As well as areas where we have noted potential for improvement, there may also be other areas where stakeholders believe there are superior alternative methods.

In order to progress, we are likely to require input from other stakeholders with particular data expertise to achieve this, and we hope that publishing this discussion paper will help focus minds (and resources) on getting this analysis to a point where it can help shape policy decisions.  We also hope that this paper helps to build understanding of the complexities in arriving at robust estimates, and that the process that follows helps to build consensus on the best way forward.


David Jack is a Statistician on a part-time secondment from Research Data Scotland.

Part of Collection

The Fraser of Allander Institute is delighted to embark on this long-term project aiming to shine a light on the support systems in place for adults with learning disabilities in Scotland – both from government and wider society.