<p>A person sits alone on a bench</p>

A person sits alone on a bench

Lack of support is driving loneliness in people with learning disabilities, charity says

Loneliness is a ‘chronic and long-term experience’ for people with a learning disability

Saman Javed
Friday 03 December 2021 09:21

More than a third of people with a learning disability hardly ever go out to socialise and feel lonely nearly always or all the time, a new study has found.

A similar number of people said they do not feel a part of their local community while two in five said they worry that others won’t understand their disability.

A survey of 1,000 people commissioned by Hft, a charity dedicated to the care and support of adults with learning disabilities, found that 60 per cent of respondents want to be able to take part in social activities and make friends.

But a lack of support is means those with learning disabilities can’t go out in their local communities and is driving loneliness, Hft said.

Victoria Hemmingway, policy and public affairs manager for Hft, said that while social restrictions implemented during the pandemic meant that everyone felt disconnected from their support networks, “for many people with a learning disability, loneliness hasn’t been restricted to the pandemic; it is a chronic and long-term experience”.

“By identifying the drivers of loneliness and taking action to combat these barriers we have the opportunity to make positive change as we rebuild our communities, ensuring that no-one with a learning disability spends a lifetime feeling like they are still in lockdown.

“Hft’s vision is for a world in which people with a learning disability can live the best life possible. This must include having equal opportunity to make and maintain friendships and be part of a community.”

According to Mencap, there are approximately 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in the UK.

In November, research by the charity found that two-thirds of people cannot correctly identify a learning disability as a reduced intellectual ability.

Almost a third of people (28 per cent) believe learning disabilities relate to a mental health issue.

Additionally, two in five people have not seen someone with a learning disability in the media in the past year.

Edel Harris, chief executive of Mencap, said: “Many people with a learning disability experienced extreme levels of social isolation and exclusion long before Covid, with Mencap research showing that one in three young people with a learning disability spent less than an hour outside their home on a typical Saturday.

“For people with a learning disability who face stigma because of their disability, Christmas can feel even lonelier than usual.

“We are facing a very tough winter, support needs have increased with many disabled people not getting the care they need to live fulfilled and independent lives.”

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