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Mike Wood, local MP for Dudley South, attended an event at the Houses of Parliament run by the learning disability charity, Hft, to find out more about its report examining the issues surrounding loneliness that people with learning disabilities experience, Lockdown on Loneliness.
The research, carried out by Savanta ComRes, 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 general public who have a learning disability.
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. For many, feeling disconnected was a longstanding experience, with a third (33%) of those surveyed saying they did not feel part of their local community, and almost half also saying the pandemic had exacerbated their feeling of loneliness.
At the drop-in session in Portcullis House, Mike Wood MP, had the opportunity to find out more about Hft and the report, and discuss the key findings in greater detail. This included 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.
At the event, there was also the opportunity to talk to Lou, from North Wales, who shares her personal experiences of loneliness and isolation in the report. Lou moved to a new home in a different area on her own shortly before lockdown began. She said the turning point for her was joining Luv2meetU, a friendship service for adults with learning disabilities run by Hft.
“I felt all on my own,” Lou said. “I was in a new place and I didn’t know anybody. It felt very strange and scary. I had sometimes felt lonely before, but being in lockdown made it worse. I felt like I was in a bad place. Now I am a different person. I feel so much better in myself. Joining Luv2meetU has helped me with my self-confidence and has really brought me out of my shell. I think everyone should have the opportunity to make friends.”
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.
Victoria Hemmingway, Public Affairs and Policy Manager for Hft, said: “We were delighted to welcome Mike Wood MP to our parliamentary event to discuss in greater detail the findings of our report. 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 to ultimately ensure that no one with a learning disability spends a lifetime feeling as though they are still in lockdown.”
Following the event, Mike Wood MP has pledged their support to tackle the barriers to friendship and connection among people with a learning disability.