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 per cent said they felt lonely “a lot”. This compares to just 3.4 per cent 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.”
Vijay said he was lonely for years, found it hard to get a job, felt anxious travelling and ended up being stuck at home at lot because he didn’t always have someone to support him to go out.
He said: “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. 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.”
Mencap reports There are 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability. The charity is working to tackle isolation and other issues 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 and personal support to help people with a learning disability lead independent and fulfilling lives every day of the year.
To find out more at www.mencap.org.uk or follow #HereIAm.