Luke with Members of DUG from Plymouth
Luke with Members of DUG from Plymouth

I am backing the ‘Listen To Us’ campaign – an ambitious new mental health campaign by the learning disability charity Mencap. 

Members of DUG (people with learning disabilities with lived experience of using Derriford Hospital as an in or out-patient)  being hosted by national Mencap. I had the privilege of meeting with two community members from Plymouth. People with learning disabilities often get a poor deal from public services and hearing their first hand experiences has helped me understand their needs more.

New research by the charity reveals that people with a learning disability in the UK are facing a mental health crisis in the wake of the pandemic, with 88% of families and carers surveyed saying their loved one was always or very often felt sad, and 82% felt lonely due to rarely being able to leave their homes. 

At a parliamentary reception held Wednesday 15th June in Westminster, MPs heard how people with a learning disability were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and how they continue to face barriers in reconnecting with their communities. 

Attendees also discussed Mencap’s new report exploring isolation and loneliness, which was funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). People with a learning disability who were interviewed for the report described their lives as a “prison,” with limited social contact during the pandemic causing them to feel suicidal.  

Speaking at the event, Brendan Chivasa, 28, a Mencap campaigner who has cerebral palsy and a learning disability, shared how he became depressed during the pandemic and is still dealing with the repercussions:  

“Mencap’s report shows lots of stories like mine. The pandemic has had a huge impact on people with a learning disability because there was not enough support for us.  We need the government to make sure people with a learning disability can get the support they need, like respite care and day services. Lots of day services [which provide activities locally and social opportunities for people with a learning disability] have still not opened fully. But we need them open so they can help people to overcome loneliness and promote positive mental health.” 

Mencap’s reception was attended by MPs and peers from across all political parties alongside campaigners with a learning disability, and their supporters, from across country.  

The event also comes ahead of Learning Disability Week 2022 (20-26th June), Mencap’s annual campaign to make sure the world understands what life is like for people with a learning disability. 

Meeting and hearing stories from people with a learning disability and their families about their experiences during the pandemic shows the reality behind the shocking statistics we’ve seen around the impact of loneliness and isolation. I’m supporting Mencap’s ‘Listen To Us’ campaign to ensure we can combat loneliness through preventative measures such as community services and activities, alongside better support aimed at treating and managing poor mental health for people with a learning disability. I look forward to working with Mencap to reduce poor mental health and to enable people with a learning disability to access the urgent support they need and deserve.

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