THE BLOG

Have You Ever Felt Lonely?

19/11/2017 14:37 GMT | Updated 20/11/2017 08:49 GMT
Rich Legg via Getty Images

Most of us will have experienced the overwhelming emotions and negative impact of being alone or isolated at some point in our lives, but if we're lucky enough those times will be fleeting and something to write off and forget.

Sadly, this isn't the case for many disabled people who tell us that they are chronically lonely - in fact new polling for Scope reveals that a staggering three million working-aged disabled people say they 'always or often' feel lonely.

So why is it that so many disabled people are experiencing feelings that nobody should have to endure at any time, let alone every day of their lives?

For a start, life costs more when you are disabled, and this includes socialising and getting out to see friends and family.

In the same vein, underfunding in the social care system makes it so much harder for disabled people to get basic support to live the lives they choose. Making plans on a whim or carrying out simple tasks like meeting a friend for coffee isn't always an option when you don't have the basic support to give you that freedom.

Another factor is a lack of community activities - especially for the parents of disabled children. On top of this, disabled people have also told us that negative public attitudes - and a lack of understanding - play a big part in sometimes being unable to make friends or get involved in their local communities.

Disabled people want to work, but they are being denied entry or squeezed out of the jobs market. Only about half of working age disabled people are in employment at any one time.

This lack of support means that life is still too tough for many disabled people in this country.

Scope talked to disabled people like Carly, a 35-year-old woman with autism, who often feels isolated. Carly said she sometimes feels she's watching life go by as a spectator and recently admitted to a family member that she didn't mind the thought of getting old and going into an old people's home, as it meant she knew she would always have company.

We also spoke to Ricky, who is 28 and finishing a masters degree. Ricky is blind and has a hearing impairment and told us how isolation has left him feeling like he has no place in the world. Because of Ricky's impairments it is difficult for him to go and meet people, unless he is in a one-to-one situation. Ricky is without a community network in his area, and feels things will only get worse. He also cited people's attitudes as being a barrier - finding that the public often dismiss disabled people out with their carers, assuming they must be 'stupid' or just avoid them altogether.

Whether you have felt lonely yourself or know someone who has, it's hard not to empathise with these moving personal experiences. Isolation and loneliness can be soul destroying at any time, but in the run up to Christmas these stories are especially poignant.

We should all be thinking about what we can do to reach out to anyone who is feeling alone this Christmas, and beyond.

The Government urgently needs to think harder about the financial and social care support offered to disabled people and take Carly and Ricky's stories, among many others, into their consideration to stop loneliness and isolation thriving into 2018.