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Ian Capon photo 3Many disabled people in the South East face being cut off from society and having to overcome major barriers to make and sustain friendships, a new report from disability charity Sense warns this week.

Research commissioned by Sense shows that half of people with disabilities in the South East feel they face greater barriers than non-disabled people in making and sustaining friendships. While more than 1 in 4 disabled people (27 %) say they feel lonely on a typical day.

One in five (21%) people with disabilities also said that the Government’s recent changes to welfare benefits and eligibility for social care have made it harder for them to make and sustain friendships.

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Sense, which supports and campaigns for people who are deafblind, has today (Monday) launched a new campaign “We all need friends” to highlight how opportunities for friendship remain elusive for too many people with disabilities. It will also explore the obstacles such as a shortage of appropriate services, transport, a lack of social groups and communication barriers and aims to open up a debate about what can be done to overcome them.

Islander Ian Capon, 52, was born with congenital rubella syndrome, which left him deaf and partially sighted. He is unable to work due to his health issues and relies on his voluntary work and particularly his involvement with the local Sense forum to maintain a circle of friends.

He says:

“For me, it’s difficult– very often communication is one of the key problems for deafblind people when they are trying to make friends. Apart from my family, the only people I know really are the people I do voluntary work with.

“The Sense forum gives me a chance to meet with similar people but I would like more friends who have the same interests as me – record collecting, photography, IT.”

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Sense Deputy Chief Executive Richard Kramer said:

“Friendships are among the most valuable relationships we have and are important for people’s health and well-being.  While there has been extensive analysis around loneliness and older people as their circle of friends reduce over time, our work shows that many disabled people have very few opportunities to make friends in the first place. People with disabilities are deeply worried about the lack of opportunities and the barriers to friendship -whether it’s communication issues, a lack of transport or social groups to join.  So far, there has been little analysis of the subject of friendship, particularly for young people and adults with disabilities.

“We want to start a national debate looking at the obstacles and what can be done to overcome them. Disabled people need to be visible, be allowed to play a full part in society and be given the same opportunities to make friends as everyone else.”

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