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Shining a light on the importance of friendship for National Learning Disability Week

18th June 2020

Local organisations in Lancashire and South Cumbria are supporting this year’s Learning Disability Week (15-21 June 2020), with a focus on the importance of friendships during lockdown.

People with a learning disability are more likely to experience loneliness and social isolation and this may have been made worse by the lockdown according to the national charity Mencap, who are behind the national week. They want to raise awareness of the importance of friendships to help tackle social isolation, as well as exploring the different ways of maintaining friendships during this unusual time.

Friendships are known to help people feel happier, included, and valued, and enhance wellbeing. But for people with a learning disability, opportunities to participate in their community, meeting people and develop friendships can be more difficult – and even more so during these times.

Sally Nightingale, Programme Lead for Learning Disabilities and Autism for Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS), said:

“Never have friendships been so important than during this coronavirus pandemic. It will have been particularly difficult for people with a learning disability and autism, who can already experience high levels of loneliness and social isolation.

In Lancashire and South Cumbria, we’ve been supporting and ensuring friendships are kept alive, and working with our friends to develop services to help keep people with a learning disability and or autism to stay connected.”

If you feel you need support for you or a family member who has learning disabilities, services are still available to help. The following can offer support – especially during lockdown:

Sally said:

“Learning Disability Week is an opportunity for everyone to think about extending their hand of friendship to someone they may know who has a learning disability and or autism. Whether that be through a phone call or a socially distanced chat or letting them know about these services that may be of help.

Never has there been a better time to be reminded of the importance of friendships and the impact a friendly chat, seeing another person smile or hearing their news can have one someone’s emotional health and mental wellbeing.”

Maria Nelligan, Executive Director of Nursing and Quality at Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust said: 

“Learning Disability Week is important in helping us to raise the profile of this significant and important area of our work, but I am determined that we will do everything we are able to do, each and every day, to support a group of people who experience significant health inequalities.

As a Learning Disability Nurse, it is an area of nursing I have always been passionate about and I have contributed to this agenda for many years. I know the team here at the Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust and in the wider system, are equally passionate and determined and together to make a difference. Together we will lead the way, by providing the highest quality services with people and their families right at the centre of our work.”