Learning Disability Week 2016 launched today (20 June 2016) by Mencap to highlight the barriers people with a learning disability face when trying to make friendships and relationships.

A survey carried out earlier this year by Mencap has revealed how almost 1 in 3 young people with a learning disability spend less than 1 hour a day outside their homes on a typical Saturday, and much of this fear comes from public attitudes:

Of those who were too worried to leave the house:

  • 33.7% were worried about being bullied
  • 25.7% worried about being laughed at when leaving the house.

The survey went on to explore issues of isolation for young people with a learning disability, finding that;

  • 30.1% spent less than 1 hour outside their homes on a Saturday
  • 49.3% would like to spend more time outside their house
  • 44.6% do not think they spend enough time with friends
  • 17.8% feel alone and cut off from other people.

Learning Disability Week will also be celebrating 50 years of Mencap running local Gateway leisure groups which have helped build real and satisfying social networks for people with a learning disability. A video showcasing how life has changed over the past 50 years for Gateway clubs has been produced and can be seen here.

To celebrate the week a range of events will be taking place across the country to help people with a learning disability engage with their local communities. Mencap is also calling on people to volunteer with its Sidekicks Programme, which asks members of the public to volunteer time to help someone with a learning disability take part in the types of leisure activities others may take for granted.

Jyoti has a learning disability and experienced loneliness before she attended a Mencap support group where she met Vitesh. The two of them now both enjoy a meaningful friendship. Jyoti said:

Sometimes I’d like to meet more people. Sometimes I do get lonely. Vitesh and I became friends, and we do things together like talking and sports. We enjoy the company. I like his personality, he makes everyone laugh, he’s a good person to talk to. When he’s upset I’m there for him, and when I’m upset he’s always there for me.

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap said:

Imagine what it must be like to wake up every Saturday and know you will only get to leave your house for a single hour of it. This is what it’s like for almost 1 in 3 18-35 year olds with a learning disability, who face bullying and stares when they leave the house instead of being able to feel the excitement of going to the cinema, pub or nightclub with their friends like most young people.
Having the chance to feel the thrill of making a new friend or falling in love is simply a dream for many of the 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. From a general public who find it easier to ignore than engage, to cuts to benefits and social care that make it harder for people to leave their homes; having a learning disability in the UK today can mean a life of isolation and loneliness.
The best way we can tackle this is to increase opportunities for people with a learning disability to get out and interact with their local community, showing the talents and personalities that are too often shut away. We want people to use this week as a chance to think differently about learning disability, and consider joining us in making a new friend this Learning Disability Week.

Notes to editors

Survey of 18-35 year olds with a learning disability 

Mencap surveyed over 300 18-35 year olds with a learning disability from September 2015 – November 2015. The results are outlined below:

Do you have a learning disability?
Response Chart Percentage Count
Yes            100.0%    338
No            0.0%    0

Total Responses: 338
Are you aged between 18-35 years old?

Response Chart Percentage Count
Yes            100.0%    338
No            0.0%    0

Total Responses: 338                    

How often do you feel like you don't have anyone to spend time with  

Often: 67 (23.8%)    

Some of the time: 119 (42.2%)    

Hardly ever: 41 (14.5%)    

Never: 55 (19.5%)    

Total Responses: 282

Think of what you did last Saturday. On that day, how many hours did you spend outside your home?
Less than 1 hour          30.1%    85
2 - 4 hours                    33.7%    95
4 - 6 hours                    14.9%    42
6- 8 hours                      12.4%    35
More than 8 hours          8.9%    25
Total Responses: 282

Would you like to:
Spend more time outside your house                                                  49.3%    138
Spend more time inside your house                                                     6.8%    19
Neither, I am happy going out as much as I do at the moment            43.9%    123

Total Responses: 280
Thinking about how much time you spend with your friends, which of the following do you think is true for you?
I spend as much time as I want with the people I like                                                                  37.6%    108
I spend some time with the people I like, but not enough                                                             44.6%    128
I don't spend much time with other people and feel alone and cut off from other people            17.8%    51

Total Responses: 287

In the last 4 weeks, were there any times when you didn't go out because you were worried about something?

Yes              35.6%    100
No                64.4%    181

Total Responses: 281

What were you worried about?
Being bullied or people calling me names            33.7%    34
Asking a member of the public for help                19.8%    20
Getting lost                                                            45.5%    46
I'm not sure                                                            25.7%    26
Using public transport                                            28.7%    29
Being laughed at                                                    25.7%    26
Something else? Please say                                 27.7%    28

Total Responses: 101

General Public Populus poll

Mencap commissioned a poll by Populus who interviewed a random sample of 2,099 UK adults 18+ from its online panel between December 9 and December 10 2015.

Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Further information at www.populus.co.uk.

How often do you see people that according to the previous description you believe to have a learning disability taking part in social activities? By social activities we mean activities such as going to the pub, to a concert, to the cinema, to a restaurant or going for a walk in the park?
Everyday     3%
Most days    16%
Once a week    15%
Once a fortnight    7%
Once a month    11%
Once every 2-6  months    7%
Once every 6-12 months    5%
Less often than once every 12 months    7%
Never    9%
Preferred not to say    1%
Don't know    19%

About Mencap 

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want. 

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact the Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email helpline@mencap.org.uk.

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability. 

Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.