Complex disabilities in the UK

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For the first time, this piece of research has helped to estimate that there are 1.6 million people with complex disabilities in the UK.

We wanted to answer the question, ‘how many people are there in the UK with complex disabilities?’. It was also important for us to understand more about what complex disability will look like in the future.

In partnership with the National Centre for Social Research, we have developed and deepened our understanding of the scale of complex disabilities in the UK in the present and for the future.

Key findings

graphic of 10 people - 1 is orange, 9 are purple

1 in 10 disabled people have complex disabilities.

graphic map outline of the uk

There are 1.6 million people with complex disabilities in the UK today.

graphic of 3 people in orange brushstroke

There are projected to be 2 million people with complex disabilities in the UK by 2029.

Regional figures

This research allows us to see how complex disabilities are distributed across the UK.

map of the uk
NationNumber of people
Northern Ireland51,904

What have we learned about people with complex disabilities living in the UK?

Key characteristics

We have been able to get a clearer picture of who people with complex disabilities are. Our research has involved analysis of data on the age, sex and ethnicity of these individuals.

What are complex disabilities?

Learn more about complex disabilities and see who Sense supports through its services.

For the purposes of this research, someone has complex disabilities if they have two or more of the following conditions and they report that their life is impacted by their disabilities:

  • Sight loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Autism
  • Learning disability

These needs may be with a person from birth, or following illness or injury, or they may develop with age. People with complex disabilities may require high level support in their daily lives.

Where do these numbers come from?

These figures come from analysis we completed with the National Centre for Social Research. We used data from the Department for Work and Pensions Family Resources Survey, in combination with historic and future estimates of the make-up of the UK population.

Read a summary of our measuring complex disabilities methodology.

Why we conducted this research

Sense exists to improve the lives of people with complex disabilities. In the UK, information and statistics on this group has been limited – we are changing this.

Our insights will enable us to better understand the needs and experiences of disabled people at every stage of life. We want to highlight the inequalities and barriers that people face, helping to support their educational, health and social needs so that they may lead full lives.

Get in touch

Please contact [email protected] if you have any questions, or would like localised data for your area.