Loneliness for adults with learning disabilities not limited to lockdown

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Over a third (36%) of people with a learning disability said they felt lonely nearly always or all the time, while one in three people (37%) said they hardly ever or never go out to socialise.

Findings suggest experiences of loneliness were not solely a consequence of restrictions introduced due to the pandemic but that feeling disconnected was a longstanding experience.

A third (33%) of those surveyed said they did not feel part of their local community, while almost half (47%) said the pandemic exacerbated their feeling of loneliness.

Hft, a national charity supporting adults with learning disabilities, published the findings in a report Lockdown on Loneliness, following research carried out by Savanta ComRes. Its survey took place online between 16-26 August, with 1,029 people taking part.

The report highlights unmet support needs as a key driver of loneliness that prevents 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.

One in three (33%) said they were not confident making friends, with almost four in ten (38%) stating they were worried people would not understand their disability. More than a third (39%) were concerned people would be unkind.

Hft is calling for the government to use social care reform as an opportunity to tackle the drivers of loneliness identified in the report. Recommendations include ensuring the inclusion of funding for activities that support friendship and connection as part of an individual’s care package.

‘Restrictions to our everyday life, through lockdowns, shielding, and isolation, has meant everyone, to some extent, has experienced feeling more disconnected from family, friends and support networks,’ said Victoria Hemmingway, policy and public affairs manager.

‘But 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.’