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Learning disability local support services

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which results in difficulty with everyday activities through life.  People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people. The level of support someone needs depends on the individual. It’s important to remember that with the right support, most people with a learning disability in the UK can lead independent lives.

A learning disability is a life-long condition. It affects a person’s ability to communicate or to do everyday things.

What is a learning difficulty?

Many people with a learning disability prefer to use the term ‘learning difficulty’. In health and social care services, the phrases ‘learning difficulty’ and ‘learning disability’ are not always used to mean the same thing. In UK education services a person with a learning difficulty may be described as having specific problems processing certain types of information. Unlike a learning disability, a learning difficulty does not affect general intelligence or IQ.

Causes of learning disabilities

A learning disability is caused by the way the brain develops before, during or soon after birth.

Conditions associated with learning disability are:

  • Down’s syndrome
  • Williams syndrome
  • Autism
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy

For detailed information visit the Mencap page.

Help and Support in Newcastle

Some people with a learning disability require very little support to live independent lives and may have jobs and busy social lives. People with severe difficulties may need extra support such as, help with eating, drinking, washing and dressing.

Community Health and Social Care Direct at Newcastle City Council helps people with learning disabilities, autism and their carers. They can:

Adult Learning Disability and Autism Team is part of Newcastle Adult Services. Following a referral from Social Care Direct they help adults with a learning disability and their carers. They can:

  • arrange conversations about your needs under the Care Act
  • plan support with adults and carers with eligible needs
  • signpost adults and carers who do not have eligible needs to other services
  • monitor whether support has been implemented for the people as directed
  • work with other professionals who have been asked to support you
  • work to safeguard adults with learning disabilities and/or autism
  • work with Children’s Services, education and health to the move for young people with learning disabilities and/or autism to Adult Services
  • promote the rights of people with learning disabilities and/or autism

Better Days offer training about learning disabilities and campaign for improvements and inclusion.  They run the Safe Places scheme and offer leisure activities including tennis and garden tidies.

Disability North give information and advice on disability equipment and activities, benefits and Direct Payments as well as advising on many other aspects of disability and signposting to other sources of help.

Families 1st 4 Additional Needs support people and families who live with autism, learning disability, Neurological Diversity and other additional needs (including mental health issues) in and around Newcastle.

KeyRing supports vulnerable adults and people with a learning disability or autism.  They encourage people to make links to their communities by becoming part of the network.

Newcastle Carers can offer support, advice and guidance to people who look after someone with learning disabilities. They also run a monthly autism support group.

Journey Enterprises provides life-skills and employability training for adults with learning disabilities and autism. You can self refer to this charity which has hubs in Newcastle, Blyth, Hexham and Bishop Auckland. Activities include arts and crafts, catering, drama and puppetry, music and dance, IT, horticulture, woodwork and health and exercise.

Skills for People are delivering Positive Behavioural Support workshops for parents/carers of children with autism and/or learning disabilities and the first workshops are taking place in April/May 2022. The workshops are split into three sessions and are being held virtually over zoom. The aim of the workshops is to help parents/carers understand and support their child’s behaviour, thinking about strategies and developing a plan that focusses on good quality of life for the child and parent/carer.

National information, advice and support

BILD work with people with lived experience to influence a more inclusive society. They run projects that may interest you – such as, ageing with a disability or communication, dementia and a learning disability.

Contact is a free telephone helpline and online support and advice for families with disabled children. They provide:

  • A to Z of medical conditions and support available
  • information on local support groups to support each other by sharing experiences and advice
  • help to families to campaign, volunteer, fundraise and shape local services to improve life for themselves and others

Respond is telephone helpline available to anyone with autism or learning disability, or their friends and family, who have experienced or been affected by institutional abuse. The helpline offers emotional support, practical advice, signposting and information giving. Regular counselling sessions are also available.

Financial support

Newcastle Welfare Rights Service provide information and advice on benefits that you may be entitled to.

Citizens Advice Newcastle offer a support service which includes reviewing correspondence.  Attend one of their drop in sessions for advice.

Support to get your voice heard

Your Voice Counts is commissioned by Newcastle City Council to provide the Independent Mental Health advocacy services including: IMCA, IMHA, Advocacy under the Care Act and RPR services in Newcastle.

Connected Voice Advocacy runs a Community Advocacy Service, offering long term one to one advocacy support for vulnerable adults in the city.

Short breaks and day centres

Shared Lives is a Council run service for adults who have a learning disability or autism and who need overnight support and supervision.

Castle Dene offers a short break although there is a cost for this service.

Welford Centre is a day centre for adults complex needs. Service users must be referred by a Health or Social Care professional following an assessment.

Read more in our Services for people with learning disabilities or autism article.

Health information

It is important that services offer reasonable adjustments for people with learning disability. This includes:

  • annual health check
  • support for cancer screening programmes
  • health passport
  • hospital passport
  • Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI). You should receive your CVI along with an Easy Read covering letter

Easyhealth is a website for people with learning disabilities where you can find health information with simple words, pictures and films.

LD North East provides a number of health cards free for anyone.  The range includes: blood pressure, pain and symptoms, health services, urine and stools, diabetes and blood tests, women’s health, mean’s health.

Specialist health services

Community Learning Disability team at Cumbria, Northumberland Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust.offer assessment, treatment and advice for adults over 18 with a learning disability who have complex physical health, challenging behaviour or mental health needs.

Neuro Development team at the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust will help you towards diagnosis and further support

Children and Young People’s service (CYPS) at CNTW offer a single point of access to mental health services for people with a learning disability

Children’s Speech and Language service at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust  supports young people with language difficulties to communicate better.

Social and leisure activities (A to Z)

Alan Shearer Activity Centre offers a short break facility for children and adults with autism. As well as short break accommodation, the centre has sensory rooms, a hydrotherapy pool, specialised seating cinema, and organised activities.

Arcadea offer drama and cultural related activities

City Library hold a Quieter hour from 10am to 11am on Saturdays.

Chain Reaction supports older people (over 55) to live independently at home. They can help you take part in groups and activities in your community. They can help you to start new friendships.

Cornerstone work with people with a learning disability in the west end of Newcastle. They offer a range of activities such as art, cooking and drama.

Friends Action North East support adults with learning disabilities and autism to meet new people and make lasting friendships. They offer supported social activities and one to one mentoring supporting adults to develop friendships, learn friendship skills and be more active in their community

Liberdade Community Development Trust run an arts venue and café from Gosforth Civic Theatre.  It is an inclusive space for performance, music, cinema, and community activity at the heart of Gosforth that aims to break down misconceptions of a learning disability while also being a space where everyone can enjoy their café, get involved in a class or go to a show.

Newcastle Libraries have a range of books called ‘Pictures to Share‘. These books combine pictures and text for adults in a meaningful way and can help stimulate conversation between families, professionals and dementia sufferers. These can also be used with stroke sufferers, as well as adults with autism, learning disabilities and people with mental health needs.

Pathways 4 All is a parent-led charity offering social and leisure activities.

Pool of Sound is a specialist music project based in North Tyneside who mainly provide 1 to 1 and group music sessions to a wide spectrum of people with learning disabilities. The overall aim of the project is to enable people to create, rehearse, perform and record their own music.

ReCoCo: Recovery College Collective have various courses available for individuals with autism including a creative arts group, cinema buddies group, and a games and chat group.

Rookie Sports can arrange tailored programmes for clients with learning, physical or sensory disabilities to help them experience improvements in physical health through the gentle exercise. They also aim to increase their social network and develop new skills.

Skills for People work with and support disabled people and their families. They offer a range of activities including a Help and Connect service to help people to connect with their local area, fitness and life planning.

Slow Museums or Slow Shopping sessions allow you to enjoy these places at a slower pace, with fewer people and less noise.

Twisting Ducks offer arts and drama for people with learning disabilities and autism

The Josephine and Jack Project provide courses for people with learning disabilities to help them make their own choices about life and love.

Education and employment support

Support is available in Newcastle to take part in training, placements and to prepare for employment. Read more in our article on Support to prepare for work.

Newcastle City Learning – LDD provision offer a variety of courses and qualifications for people over 19 with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Supported Employment Service at Newcastle City Council help people who have barriers to employment find and stay in work. They help people to think about their career goals and how to achieve them. They can help you to:

  • understand existing skills and how they’re useful to the jobs market
  • write a CV and apply for jobs online
  • get ready for interviews
  • choose and gain qualifications
  • stay in work
  • take part in work experience and placements at Natures Landscapes and FoodWorks

DiversityNE offer support to people with autism and other neurodivergent conditions to find a job by matching them to work placements.

Journey Enterprises provides life-skills and employability training for adults with learning disabilities and autism. You can self refer to this charity which has hubs in Newcastle, Blyth, Hexham and Bishop Auckland.

Youth Employment Service North East (YESNE) is a local youth employment service working to reduce the number of neurodivergent young people (such as autism, learning disability, dyslexia or Tourettes) who are not in work, education or training in or around the Tyne and Wear area.

Twisting Ducks offer Drama Works, a creative employability training programme for people with learning disabilities and autism that uses drama techniques to explore transferable work skills

Staying Safe

Everyone should feel safe when living and enjoying life in Newcastle. Some extra support is available if you feel you need it.

Public Transport

The Nexus Travel Safe Guide gives advice and tips on how to travel around Newcastle safely.  You can also carry a Bridge card to identify that you need help.

At home

Protected Telephone Services and Priority Repairs are available to help support people with long term conditions and disabilities. This helps to make sure that your phone line is working, so you can use it to stay in contact with others and in emergencies.

If you feel that you need extra support at home there is a range of supported living, day centres and place for over night stays available in Newcastle.

When out and about

The Blue Card is a free resource for people with autism in Newcastle. You can request a card and put your emergency contact details on it. Carrying The Blue Card will help you to feel safe and be safe when you are out and about. You can use your Blue Card at a recognised ‘Safe Place’.

Safe Places scheme

The Safe Places are places you can go in Newcastle if you need help or are upset. For example, if you have been bullied, lost or had something stolen, like your bus pass, purse or wallet

The staff at these places listed below are trained to help people with learning disabilities. You might see a Safe Places sticker in their window. You can ask for help at:

Read more about Safe Places on the Better Days website.

Hate Crime

It’s a criminal offence to target someone because of a personal characteristic, such as autism or a learning disability. This can include name calling, threatening behaviour online or in person, or someone hurting you. Support is available to help you report any hate crime. Read more about what is Hate Crime and how to report it on InformationNOW.

The Nexus Travel Safe Guide gives advice and tips on how to travel around Newcastle safely. You can also carry a Bridge card to show that you need help.


There are different types of abuse and signs to be aware of. Types of abuse include: financial, physical, emotional, sexual and neglect.

Contact Community Health & Social Care Direct if you are worried about the abuse or neglect of an adult in Newcastle. You can read more about adult abuse and domestic abuse on InformationNOW.

Health conditions linked to a learning disability

People with a learning disability may be more prone to certain health problems. You may find it useful to read the following sections on our website:

Accessible Information Standard

If you have a sensory loss or disability you are entitled by law to accessible information about your health care and support from the NHS and publicly funded social care services. For example this could include large print or a professional BSL interpreter at medical appointments.

Services must:

  • find out your information needs
  • record them in a set way
  • highlight them in your records so that staff meet your needs every time you use services
  • share your information needs with other services e.g. if you give details to your GP then these can be shared with any hospital service you maybe referred to
  • make sure you get support the way you need including when your needs vary. For example you may need to receive short letters in large print but need longer documents on audio.
  • ask on a regular basis if your needs have changed

Remember – tell services that it is your right to have your needs addressed and they have to do this by law (section 250 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012)

Making InformationNOW more accessible

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Other useful pages on InformationNOW

You may find these articles on InformationNOW useful

Other useful information

  • Beyond Words is a charity that provides books and training to support people who find pictures easier to understand than words.
  • Inclusion North raises awareness of the barriers to inclusion for people with a learning disability or autism and their families, and work to remove them.
  • The Challenging Behaviour Foundation offers information and support for people caring for someone who has challenging behaviour
  • The hand wash rap to help with hand washing for coronavirus.

Last updated: August 10, 2022

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