News reporter Katie Norris reports on how the NHS in Sandwell and West Birmingham is raising awareness for National Learning Disability week

Written by Katie Norris
Images by Green Chameleon

The NHS in Sandwell and West Birmingham is focusing on the importance of friendship during lockdown for this year’s Learning Disabilities Week from the 15th to the 21st of June.

This is especially relevant as Mencap, the charity which organises the week, have highlighted how people with learning disabilities are more likely to experience loneliness and social isolation, an experience only intensified by the lockdown. 

For those with learning disabilities meeting people and creating friendships can be more difficult, and opportunities to sustain these friendships can be more complicated, especially during a pandemic. Friendship can help a person feel valued, happier, and included, improving one’s well being. 

I want people to think about extending their hand of friendship to someone they may know who has a learning disability

Dr Ian Sykes, local GP and chair at NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), outlines his hopes for this year’s Learning Disabilities Week, stating: I want people to think about extending their hand of friendship to someone they may know who has a learning disability.’

‘Whether that be through a phone call or a socially distanced chat, never has there been a better time to be reminded of the importance of friendships and the impact a friendly chat can have on [sic] someone’s mental wellbeing.’

If you do not know anyone who may be experiencing social isolation due to a learning disability, Mencap has befriending services which you can find out more about by emailing

By focusing on friendship, Mencap aims to raise awareness of its importance and the ways in which friendships can be maintained during this difficult time. Using #MencapFamily on social media, they ask people to share and celebrate the friendships that have been made key to them during the lockdown. Whether it is a family member, a friend or even a support worker, they are asking for people to give their very own #MencapFamily a shoutout. 

If you need help and support for either yourself or a family member who has – or you believe to have – learning disabilities, NHS services are here to help you and your family, as they are still operating during the coronavirus crisis. 

Contact your GP or make a self-referral to the Sandwell Community Learning Disability Team. For further information visit their website or call 0121 543 4063.


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