Mencap and Leonard Cheshire have been given over £5m from the Covid-19 Support Fund, established by the insurance and long-term savings industry last year to help those with the greatest needs. 

The charities hope the donation will give those with disabilities the opportunity to develop skills and lead change in their local communities. 

The funding has been welcomed by the charities, after the Office for National Statistics reported that around two thirds (65%) of disabled people said the pandemic was affecting their wellbeing.

Another survey, undertaken by Mencap, revealed the devastating impact of the pandemic on people wit a learning disability. In total, 69% of family carers said they had seen a detrimental impact on their mental health, 73% on their relationships, 54% on their physical health and 67% on their independence. 

Mencap will put people with a learning disability at the heart of Covid recovery planning

Mencap will put people with a learning disability at the heart of Covid recovery planning and will develop new ways of working in nine local communities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Over three years, 36 people with a learning disability will be employed to lead activity that makes their community a better place to live. Supported by a community engagement worker, they will work with people in their local communities to lead social change and achieve better outcomes for the people with a learning disability who live there.

Ciara Lawrence, who has a learning disability and is the Big Plan Engagement Lead at Mencap, said: “This funding from the Covid-19 Support Fund is really great news! It will help people with a learning disability, like me, be seen and heard in their local communities. Many people with a learning disability have been forgotten during the pandemic.

"Mencap’s new community programme means they can take their place in society once again. It will also help communities to be more inclusive. It is great that people with a learning disability will carry out this programme because they know what changes they want to see to make their community the best place to live. It is about them and their voices.”

Leonard Cheshire will expand its award-winning skills development programme 'Can Do'

Leonard Cheshire will expand its award-winning skills development programme ‘Can Do’ for individuals aged 16-35, who have a disability or long-term health condition. The donation will enable the programme to run for the next three years in multiple locations across the UK.

The programme is designed is designed around the interests of the participants and enables them to take the next step towards their goals. Leonard Cheshire say that connecting people to their community with fun and engaging activities helps build confidence and new skills. Those taking part can also gain a City & Guild certificate or an SQA Award by completing a 16hr Building Communities project.

Jessica Duong, 19, from Liverpool, took part in wellbeing 'Can Do' sessions over the last year and said: “Can Do was fun. We did a Wellbeing Enterprise project and did different things like fitness and mindfulness sessions. I liked the sessions on relaxation and different ways to cope with stress. We did things I had never done before. I got new skills like designing the book, which looks really good. It was nice to meet new people too even if this was on Zoom.

“I want to do childcare in the future. I might also be going to do a course at college next year and do a placement with children. I think doing Can Do has helped with my confidence and I am not as nervous about going somewhere else to do another course now. I also feel more confident with online stuff as this was new to me. I would definitely tell people to do it, I enjoyed it and the experience was good.”

"We're indebted to Leonard Cheshire and Mencap for their work"

Colm Holmes, Chair of the Covid-19 Support Fund Governance Committee & Global CEO, General Insurance, Aviva said:

“Over the past year people with disabilities have endured long periods of isolation and seen a reduction or withdrawal in the services they rely on. We’re indebted to Leonard Cheshire and Mencap for their work and thrilled that this donation from the Covid-19 Support Fund will have a lasting impact for people with learning disabilities and their communities around the UK.”