New research by Mencap has found that fear of being bullied is leading to social isolation for people with a learning disability

In response, Mencap is kicking off its 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon partnership with a series of inclusive sporting events. These events, hosted during Learning Disability Week 2019, will bring people with and without a learning disability together through sport.  More events will take place through the rest of the year.  

Over 1 in 3 people with a learning disability said that being bullied is one of the things they worry about most when they go out, according to the new figures from Mencap. 

In a survey of 1000 adults with a learning disability, the top three things respondents said they are worried about when they go out are: 

  • people calling them names or bullying them  
  • using public transport 
  • getting lost  

It is this fear and worry that means people with a learning disability feel reluctant to leave their homes and get out and about – taking part in sport, attending hospital visits or enjoying social activities.   Worryingly, isolation is a significant problem, with over two thirds of people with a learning disability reporting they didn’t have anyone to spend time with either some of or a lot of the time.  

Vijay Patel, Mencap Ambassdor who has a learning disability, experienced bullying at school and social isolation. He was discriminated against in many ways, including always being picked last in PE because of his learning disability. This affected his confidence and made him feel excluded.

Of this time, Vijay Patel says:

“Every time it came to picking teams my classmates just saw my learning disability and thought I wasn’t good enough. Being picked last made me feel really low. I didn’t have many friends at school and I didn’t feel included. It also made me feel like I couldn’t take part in the things I wanted to do. 

“Everything changed when I joined my local Mencap group to take part in sporting activities with other people with a learning disability. I enjoyed taking part in sport every month and it made me feel less isolated. It helped me go from low confidence to high confidence! Now I play in a football team and they’ve made me the vice-captain! I am also part of the Mencap running group – something I never got to do before – and also play softball and ten-pin bowling. These opportunities have given me the confidence to believe in myself and prove that I can do it.

“The most important thing to me as a person with a learning disability is that I don’t want to be left out. No one should be left out, everyone should be included. By taking part in sport, I want to show other people with a learning disability that they can do it too.”

Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive of the learning disability charity Royal Mencap Society, said: 

“Exclusion and discrimination stop many people with a learning disability living the life they deserve. Fear of abuse means many people are afraid to leave their homes, cutting them off from the outside world.

“Sport is a great way to break down barriers and bring people together. We know that taking part in sport makes people with a learning disability feel more confident, healthy and part of their communities.

"Being the Charity of the Year for the Virgin Money London Marathon is a game-changer for Mencap and we want to use the global platform it affords us, to change people’s attitudes and to make a difference to the lived experience of people with a learning disability. We are kicking off our year with a programme of inclusive sports events around England, Wales and Northern Ireland during Learning Disability Week. But we are not stopping there. We will use this brilliant opportunity to deliver real change and a long-lasting legacy, with the launch of ‘All Move’, our vision for a socially inclusive world, with young people with and without a learning disability taking part in sport in schools together. We will also use every opportunity the marathon presents to promote visibility of people with a learning disability.” 

David Duffy, Chief Executive of Virgin Money, said: 

“We are thrilled to announce Mencap as our Charity of the Year. Mencap has been leading the way in challenging discrimination against people with learning disabilities across society, and the charity’s pioneering work on sports and social inclusion has been a game-changer. That’s why we are proud to be funding the 'Here We Are' events during Learning Disability Week. These events will help bring about social inclusion and promote confidence, physical activity and well-being. We’re looking forward to working with Mencap to raise money for the ‘All Move’ programme and make the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon the most inclusive marathon yet.” 

Find out more information about Mencap’s country-wide inclusive sports programme taking place this Learning Disability Week by visiting the Mencap website .

Or on social media by following @mencap_charity.


For further information or to arrange interviews, contact Mencap’s media team: 

Notes to editors

People with a learning disability are nearly twice as likely to be inactive, twice as likely to become obese and have shorter lifespans compared to those without a learning disability.

With almost half (43%) of adults with a learning disability are inactive compared to the national average of 25%, according to Sport England’s 2017/18 Active Lives data. 

Yet new research by Activity Alliance revealed that two thirds of disabled people want to be active in an inclusive setting – with both their disabled and non-disabled peers.

Almost three quarters (73%) of non-disabled people were also open to taking part in sport with disabled people – respondents who were aware of having taken part in sport with a disabled person were more like to be comfortable with disabled people joining in.

Mencap’s Here We Are inclusive sports programme will be taking place in 15 different locations across the country.

The Here We Are events will complement other sport and activities being delivered by Mencap local groups and partner organisations across the country. These inclusive sports days will include a zumbathon with former gladiator Jet; inclusive yoga sessions; a 5-aside football with Arsenal’s Community team and the Disability Minister Justin Tomlinson MP, inclusive table tennis training session at Westfield Stratford as well as a coastal walk along the beautiful Millennium Coastal PathatLlanelli (with Dennis the therapeutic Shetland pony).

All Move is a new inclusive school programme bringing together children with and without a learning disability to tackle stigma and bullying through sport. The partnership with Virgin Money will also fund the charity ENABLE Scotland to deliver their own inclusion project, ACE Youth Groups.

Mencap ran a survey with 1000 adults (aged 18+) with a learning disability in the UK. Responses were collected between January and May 2019 using a paper-based questionnaire and an online questionnaire hosted on Survey Monkey. Please see data from relevant questions below. 

Please note: percentages may not total 100% due to rounding. 

Think of what you did last Saturday. On that day, how many hours did you spend outside your home? (n=1000)

Response Count Percentage
Less than 1 hour 316 32%
1 to 4 hours 435 44%
5 to 8 hours 170 17%
More than 8 hours 79 8%
Total 1000

Think about the last month. Were there any times when you didn't go out because you were worried about something? (n=1000)

Response Count Percentage
Yes 316 32%
No 537 54%
Don't know 147 15%
Total 1000

Do you worry about any of these things when you go out? (n=1000)

Please note: participants could select more than one answer. 

Response Count
Getting lost 387
People calling me names or bullying me 352
Using public transport 305
People laughing at me 272
Asking a member of the public for help 264
People ignoring me 252
Other 27

How often do you feel like you don't have anyone to spend time with? (n=1000)

Response Count Percentage
A lot 227 23%
Sometimes 451 45%
Never 322 32%
Total 1000



There are 1.4 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 Mencap’s freephone Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (9am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email .    

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

About ENABLE Scotland

ENABLE Scotland is a Scottish charity, working to make life better for people who have a learning disability and their families. It was founded in 1954 by five sets of parents of children who had a learning disability. They believed that their children had the same rights as everyone else. ENABLE Scotland is committed to creating an equal society for every person who had a learning disability. It campaigns to end discrimination, fundraises and provides personalised support to 3,000 people who have learning disabilities, the support enables people who have a learning disability to find work, develop their skills and live the life they choose. As the largest, member-led learning disability charity in Scotland, the members are the voice of the organisation. They determine the direction the charity takes to deliver an equal society for every person who has a learning disability in Scotland.  

About Virgin Money 

Virgin Money offers savings, mortgages, credit cards, current accounts, currency services, pensions, investments and protection products to customers across the UK. 

Virgin Money's business ambition is to make "everyone better off" - this philosophy underpins our approach to business by offering good value to customers, treating employees well, making a positive contribution to society and delivering a profit to shareholders. 

More than 15,000 charities have registered with Virgin Money Giving and, by the end of 2018, over £700 million had been donated to charities through the service since its launch in 2009, resulting in many millions more being raised for charity because of its not-for-profit model. 

Virgin Money is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CYBG Group.