Earlier this week, in my role as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Learning Disability, I was delighted to host Mencap, the learning disability charity, in Parliament to celebrate #ldweek2022.
We welcomed around 80 campaigners, many of whom have learning disabilities themselves, to share their lived experiences with Parliamentarians, including the Minister for Civil Society, Nigel Huddleston.
The theme for this year’s Learning Disability Week is ‘living with a learning disability’ and includes a focus on ensuring that people with a learning disability are not left behind in the recovery from the pandemic.
The event sought to draw attention to Mencap’s recent report into loneliness, funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Their research 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.
We heard an extremely rousing speech from Brendan Chivasa, 28, a Mencap campaigner who has cerebral palsy and a learning disability. He 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 still not opened fully. But we need them open so they can help people to overcome loneliness and promote positive mental health.”
Clearly, we must do better and that is why I am supporting Mencap’s calls to get day services restored to pre-pandemic levels, combat loneliness through preventative measures like community services and activities, and have more mental health professionals learning disability trained. I will do all I can to support them in these objectives.
I would like to thank all those who made the event possible and the campaigners, and carers, for sharing their experiences.
If you would like to learn more about the work that Mencap do, think you might benefit from their support or would like to help them speak up for people with learning disabilities, I would encourage you to explore the ways you can get involved with the charity here: