38% of disabled young people feel lonely most days (Sense, 2016). It almost rolls off the tongue, ‘lonely most days’ as a glib, catch-all phase. But if we properly listen to disabled young people, we will become aware of a very stark situation that needs urgent action.
In evaluative research, C.A.R.P. Collaborations has been working with disabled young people who use the Building Bridges project, a community connecting and transition service, in Monmouthshire. These young people have explained exactly what ‘lonely most days’ actually means; through reflection on what life is like now, since they have had support to maintain friendships: ‘I was existing, but now I’m living.’ Having friends means that ‘I’m not alone now. I felt incredibly alone. I started suffering from OCD, anxiety and I had my learning difficulty and I was all alone.’ And loneliness often brings low self-esteem with it: ‘Since joining Building Bridges I realised I was not so bad’.