LD week isolationThe annual Learning Disability Week (june 20-26) has been launched to highlight the barriers people with a learning disability face when trying to make friendships and relationships.

A survey carried out earlier this year by Mencap – which organises Learning Disability Week – revealed how 30.1% young people with a learning disability spend less than 1 hour a day outside their homes on a typical Saturday, and much of this fear comes from public attitudes.

Of those who were too worried to leave the house, 33.7% were worried about being bullied and 25.7% were concerned about being laughed at when leaving the house.

The survey also found that many young people with learning disabilities feel isolated, with 49.3% of respondents saying they would like to spend more time outside their house, 44.6% did not think they spend enough time with friends and 17.8% felt alone and cut off from other people.

Jyoti has a learning disability and experienced loneliness before she attended a Mencap support group where she met Vitesh (both pictured above). The two of them now enjoy a meaningful friendship. 

“Sometimes I’d like to meet more people,” said Jyoti. “Sometimes I do get lonely. Vitesh and I became friends, and we do things together like talking and sports. We enjoy the company. I like his personality, he makes everyone laugh, he’s a good person to talk to. When he’s upset I’m there for him, and when I’m upset he’s always there for me.”

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, added: “Imagine what it must be like to wake up every Saturday and know you will only get to leave your house for a single hour of it. This is what it’s like for almost 1 in 3 18-35 year olds with a learning disability, who face bullying and stares when they leave the house instead of being able to feel the excitement of going to the cinema, pub or nightclub with their friends like most young people.

“Having the chance to feel the thrill of making a new friend or falling in love is simply a dream for many of the 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. From a general public who find it easier to ignore than engage, to cuts to benefits and social care that make it harder for people to leave their homes; having a learning disability in the UK today can mean a life of isolation and loneliness.

“The best way we can tackle this is to increase opportunities for people with a learning disability to get out and interact with their local community, showing the talents and personalities that are too often shut away. We want people to use this week as a chance to think differently about learning disability, and consider joining us in making a new friend this Learning Disability Week.”