A recent survey by Ealing Mencap showed 55% of people with learning and other disabilities were ‘extremely’ or ‘very worried’ about not being able to see their friends again.
Before the lockdown, on a daily basis Ealing Mencap would enable 86 people to take part in supported internships, social inclusion group activities, travel training, after-school club and employment preparation programmes. In a typical week Ealing Mencap would provide more than 2,500 hours of face-to-face support to 170 adults and young people with learning and other disabilities.
Then came lockdown.
With COVID-19 being a respiratory disease, people with learning disabilities are a high-risk category, and getting the message through to ensure that people ‘stayed at home and stayed safe’ was of critical importance.
Councillor Binda Rai, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for health and adult services, said: “People living with learning disabilities experience higher levels of social isolation and loneliness.
“The general population adapted to social distancing quickly using WhatsApp and Zoom to keep in touch with loved ones, and using the internet for shopping and other necessities. But 30% of the people we support have no access to the internet at home.
“Limited access to digital technology or the skills to use it, and difficulties with verbal communication have made lockdown harder for people with learning disabilities and many of them are feeling anxious and alone.”
The Big Virtual Lunch
The importance of friendships during lockdown’ was the theme for Learning Disability Week #LDWeek2020. As part of the awareness, Ealing Mencap held a Virtual Big Lunch on Wednesday 17 June.
The aim was to have fun while creating change so that people with learning disabilities can have more and stronger relationships with others in the community. Friends of Ealing Mencap joined in to show their compassion and solidarity for people with learning disabilities, bringing everyone together in spirit to celebrate friendship.
During the Big Lunch people with learning disabilities joined the online lunch so they could chat with friends and staff who they had not seen in ages. Some got dressed up for the event, others hung bunting, displayed artwork from their activity pack and showed off their singing and dancing. Friends and supporters of Mencap from across Ealing got involved and shared pictures of themselves having lunch.
One of the participants said: “It was lovely to see everyone upbeat and happy.”
Another said: “It was really good for my daughter to see some people that she knows and is missing.”
The team at Mencap has already been asked to hold another one soon in fancy dress.
As a local charity, Ealing Mencap is heavily dependent on raising funds to enable continuous essential care and support for people in our community. Its focus is to raise awareness of the challenges people with learning disabilities continue to face in everyday life and inspire people to make a difference.
If you would like to support the work of Ealing Mencap visit http://www.ealingmencap.org.uk/donate-now