Last reviewed: April 2016 | Next review: June 2020

Our vision is a future where adults, children and young people with a learning disability have the same opportunities to be involved in their community, meet people and develop friendships as anyone else. 

Friendships can help people feel happier, included and valued. They can also enhance wellbeing.

Current situation

Children and adults with a learning disability tend to have smaller social networks and their relationships are not as strong as those of children and adults without a learning disability.

Their social networks are often characterised by relationships with support staff and the people they live with. 34% of adults with a learning disability have no more than yearly contact with friends.

The issues

  • Social isolation is common. 
  • Adults, children and young people with a learning disability have fewer opportunities to meet new and existing friends.
  • Children and young people are often educated outside of their local area and not with local young people. Friends they do have can live far away.
  • They often do not get the support they need to help them to be part of the community at the times they want and often rely on family for transport and to find activities. 
  • People with a learning disability can face physical barriers including the lack of accessible transport and toilets and limited access to information about where other people of their age go to socialise.
  • They may not feel welcomed and may require communication support to help them meet and talk to others and to develop longer-term friendships.

Friendships and social life vision statement

Download our friendships and social life vision statement to print off and read

Download resource

Friendships easy read vision statement

Download the easy read version of our vision statement on friendships and social life. Friendships can help people feel happier, included and valued

Download resource
A group of friends sit and chat in a park

What we want

Mencap wants people with a learning disability to be able develop and maintain friendships and enjoy their social life with the support and welcome they need to do this. For this to happen:

  1. people with a learning disability must be given greater opportunities to meet new people and existing friends through activities they like
  2. people with a learning disability must get the support they need to live an independent life, to take part in activities, and to make friends safely
  3. people with a learning disability must have choice and control over their social life, who they spend time with, and who their friends are
  4. society must recognise that having friends is valuable to people with a learning disability, and having friendship is an important part of their wellbeing
  5. venues and events, as well as transport, must become more responsive to the needs and welcoming of people with a learning disability

Friendships can be the basis from which loving relationships develop. Please see our vision statement on Relationships and Sex for more information about what we think about that area of life.

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