Skip to main content

Prevention and Social Care for Adults with Learning Disabilities

This scoping review was commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research’s School for Social Care Research.

The aims of the review were to explore the issue of prevention in relation to adult social care services for people with learning disabilities with regard to:

  • Options for preventative actions
  • Implications for adult social care practice
  • Possibilities for modelling the consequences of preventative strategies

What is prevention?

Traditionally, it has been common to distinguish between three levels of prevention:

  • Primary prevention which seeks to eliminate or reduce need by reducing the probability of it initially occurring
  • Secondary prevention which seeks to eliminate or reduce need by intervening in the early stages of the development of the need in order to reduce the probability of it escalating
  • Tertiary prevention which seeks to eliminate or reduce need by providing effective support to people who already experience such a need to prevent further disability or disadvantage and, as far as possible, to restore functioning.

However, the recent focus on a ‘preventative agenda’ in UK social and health care policy has primarily been on shifting activity toward primary and secondary prevention. Given this focus, this scoping review will only address issues related to primary and secondary prevention.

There are two logical options for preventative interventions that seek to reduce the need for social care services among people with learning disabilities. First, it may be possible to prevent the development of learning disabilities per se. The results of such interventions would be to reduce the number of people with learning disabilities in the population and, over time, the need to use adult social care services by people with learning disabilities. Second, it may be possible for preventative interventions to reduce the need for adult social care services among people with learning disabilities.