The number of people calling learning disability charity Mencap’s helpline for advice has more than doubled in the past 12 months as concerns about the effects of cuts to care and support mount.

The charity has experienced a 139% increase in calls and emails about community care in the past year from people with learning disabilities and their families. The majority of these enquiries focused on concerns about cuts to personal support, fears about community care assessments and complaints about eligibility criteria changes by local authorities.

Cutbacks to services, changes to eligibility criteria, reduced funding and day service closures in many areas mean that 1 in 4 adults with a learning disability now spend less than one hour outside of the home, a recent report by Mencap, Stuck at home, found.

In response to the increase in demand for its advice lines, Mencap has decided to merge its 2 helplines into one freephone service, which it believes will make it easier for people with a learning disability to receive the support and information that they need.

From today, Mencap Direct will provide information on services that are available to people with a learning disability, such as employment, housing support, and advice on a range of issues including social care, abuse, bullying and health. Specialist helpline advisers will also be able to offer guidance on personal budgets and support plans.

Steve McIlvenny, assistant director at Mencap, said: “The surge in calls to Mencap in the past 12 months reflects the challenges that many people with a learning disability now face due to the increased financial pressures on many local authorities across the country. We know these changes have left many people isolated and worried about the future, and in need of easier access to better information and advice.”

Mencap Direct’s freephone number is: 0808 808 1111.