To read this content please select one of the options below:

Participation of adults with learning disabilities in the 2015 UK General Election

Elaine James (Department of Health Research, Faculty of Health and Medicine, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Mark Harvey (Hertfordshire County Council, Hertfordshire, UK)
Chris Hatton (Centre for Disability Research, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

Tizard Learning Disability Review

ISSN: 1359-5474

Article publication date: 3 April 2018




People with learning disabilities may experience discrimination which prevents them from exercising choice and control over their right to participate in democratic processes. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


Taking data collected by social workers during a campaign from the 2015 UK General Election, this paper analyses the variables associated with higher rates of democratic participation by people with learning disabilities.


The present authors undertook secondary analysis on data collected by social workers supporting adults with learning disabilities who were living in community housing units. In total, 1,019 people with learning disabilities who were living in 124 community housing units in one English county gave consent to participate. In total, 84 per cent were registered to vote and 26 per cent cast a vote on polling day. People were significantly more likely to cast a vote if they lived in a housing unit where they understood their rights (Wald χ2 =4.896, p=0.027).

Practical implications

The analyses are consistent with the hypothesis that supporting people with learning disabilities to understand their right to participate in elections increases the likelihood they will cast a vote on a polling day. There are practical implications from this finding for commissioning practices, support planning, and education of health and social care practitioners.


This is the first study of this size which examines data from people with learning disabilities on their experience of democratic participation and the role of social work.



James, E., Harvey, M. and Hatton, C. (2018), "Participation of adults with learning disabilities in the 2015 UK General Election", Tizard Learning Disability Review, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 65-71.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles