People with a learning disability are seven times as likely as their non-disabled peers to be lonely, according to research from Mencap.
This Christmas, the charity is calling for urgent action to be taken to tackle the loneliness epidemic faced by people with a learning disability.
In a recent survey of people with a learning disability, Mencap found that 24% said they felt lonely ‘a lot’.* This compares to just 3.4% of the general population who said they felt lonely ‘often or always’**.
Vijay Patel, Campaigns Assistant at Mencap and who has a learning disability, said:
“Christmas is all about family and meeting up with friends. This ‘Christmas cheer’ can make a lot of people feel lonely at Christmas time if they don’t have anyone to spend it with. For people with a learning disability, like me, who face prejudice and stigma because they have a learning disability, it means they are excluded from lots of social things and they can feel even lonelier as a result.
"Fear of abuse or not having any support to be independent means that people with a learning disability might not be able to leave their homes and get out and about, and you’ve got a ‘perfect storm’. We’re now seeing high levels of loneliness facing people with a learning disability.
“I was lonely for years. I found it hard to get a job, I felt anxious travelling and I ended up being stuck at home a lot because I didn’t always have anyone to support me to go out. I was beginning to give up hope. But it all changed when Mencap supported me and helped me get a job. Now I get out of the house and I’ve made new friends. I am more confident and independent – I’m captain of my football team.
"In the past, I spent Christmas stuck at home but this year I will be going out with friends – going bowling, for drinks at the pub and to watch football on Boxing Day. People with a learning disability shouldn’t face loneliness at Christmas or any other time of year. I’ve broken free of loneliness. Now let’s help make sure thousands of others can one day say the same. Everyone’s Christmas is unique but no one should spend it alone.”
Reducing isolation and loneliness
Mencap is working to change this by supporting people with a learning disability to feel empowered and included in all aspects of their lives through a range of programmes including an inclusive sports programme in schools, All Move; a supported employment programmes helping people into work; a friendships and relationships programmes like Gig Buddies as well as through delivering personal support to help people with a learning disability lead independent and fulfilling lives every day of the year.
The first ever Government loneliness strategy was launched in October 2018 and set out the approach to tackling loneliness in England.
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Despite this, Mencap says that not enough is being done to tackle the loneliness epidemic faced by people with a learning disability. Mencap is asking people to sign up to help tackle the loneliness epidemic faced by people with a learning disability by either supporting its programmes or volunteering their time. If people are interested they can find out more at www.mencap.org.uk or follow #HereIAm.
* Mencap, Nightlife Survey, October 2019.
** Office for National Statistics, Disability, well-being and loneliness, UK: 2019 Report, December 2019.