For many people with a learning disability, feeling disconnected from society is a longstanding experience, with a third (33%) reporting they did not feel part of their local community, and almost half saying the pandemic had exacerbated their feelings of loneliness.
These are the findings of research by national learning disability charity, Hft, whose report, entitled “Lockdown on Loneliness, was the focus of a drop-in event held for MPs at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, 14 June.
The research is based on analysis from an online survey exploring the themes of loneliness and isolation and draws on the views and experiences of more than 1,000 members of the public who have a learning disability.
The research showed that over a third (36%) of people with a learning disability surveyed after lockdown said they felt lonely nearly always or all the time, while one in three people (37%) also said that they hardly ever or never go out to socialise. This suggests that their experiences of loneliness were not simply a consequence of restrictions introduced due to the pandemic.
At the drop-in session in Portcullis House, MPs had the opportunity to find out more about Hft and the report, and discuss the key findings in greater detail. This includes unmet support needs being a key driver of loneliness, preventing many people with a learning disability from taking opportunities to socialise. Almost a quarter of people (24%) surveyed said they did not have enough support to go out into their community, while two thirds (66%) said they would like more support to do social activities and make friends – highlighting the vital role social care plays in supporting people with a learning disability to participate in everyday social activities.
Victoria Hemmingway, Public Affairs and Policy Manager for Hft, said:
Loneliness hasn’t been restricted to the pandemic for many with a learning disability, but it is rather a chronic and long-term experience. As we rebuild our communities, we have the opportunity to tackle the barriers to friendship and connection among people with learning disabilities ultimately to ensure that no one with a learning disability spends a lifetime feeling as though they are still in lockdown.
Based on the findings of the report, Hft has made a series of recommendations to Government to influence change and will be raising awareness of the issue through its continuing Lockdown on Loneliness campaign.
To view the research or to find out more about the campaign to end loneliness please visit: www.hft.org.uk/lockdownonloneliness