Councils are struggling to support people with a learning disability to live independently, according to a new report from Mencap.

The charity also says there are signs local authorities are moving backwards from a long-established policy to support people within their communities and looking again to residential care.

Mencap conducted a Freedom of Information request of all local authorities in England and Wales and surveyed nearly 500 parent carers of people with a learning disability. The charity found that 8 in 10 (82%) councils recognise that there is a housing shortage for adults with a learning disability in their areas, with 67% stating this has worsened in the last 12 months.

The report, Housing for people with a learning disability, highlights that just 1 in 3 people with a learning disability lives independently in either supported accommodation (16%), as a tenant (15%), or as a home owner (2.5%).

Meanwhile, nearly 1 in 4 (22%) people with a learning disability live in a registered care home and 22,000 (13%) live out-of-area. This is despite 70% of people with a learning disability wanting to live more independently.

However, pressures on council budgets are preventing many from doing so. For example, in the past year, a number of local authorities have decided to only support people with a learning disability to live independently if the cost to do this is less than moving them into residential care.

Mencap is concerned that as a result of the financial pressures councils are under, some are reverting to increasingly sending people into care, seeing it as a cheaper option rather than the best decision for the individual.

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, said: “Less than half a century ago, people with a learning disability were locked away and kept a secret from the rest of society. Over recent decades, much progress has been made to ensure that people with a learning disability are able to live independently within their local communities. Councils must not allow short-term financial pressures to turn back the clock for people with a learning disability.”

The charity has also noted increasing concern about housing issues from people with a learning disability and their carers. The number of calls about housing to Mencap Direct, Mencap’s helpline, has doubled in the past year. Additionally, housing advice service the Housing and Support Alliance has also reported a substantial year-on-year increase in calls.

Alicia Wood, chief executive of the Housing and Support Alliance, added: “Calls to our advice service about housing have more than doubled in the last year. We continually hear from people with learning disabilities and families who are either being told that there is no housing and no money for them to move on from the family home, or that the only options are residential care or supported housing schemes when neither of these are suitable for individuals.

“We know that with the right housing and support that not only do people with learning disabilities get what they need and thrive, but it is often more cost effective. If we go back to the days of only moving people on in a crisis,  not only will there be a greater cost to the public purse but we will see another generation of  people with learning disabilities without aspiration and any control over what happens in their lives.”

To read the report, go to