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Chronic loneliness, one of the greatest problems faced by people in Newcastle with learning difficulties, is being tackled thanks to a grant from Northumberland Freemasons to local charity Skills for People.

The £9,000 grant will pay for a programme of social activities for 60 people, some of whom do not have a single friend before they join the programme.

There are 6,000-8,000 people with learning disabilities in Newcastle upon Tyne, with fewer than a quarter known to local social services.

Over 50 per cent of people with a learning disability experience chronic loneliness, compared to 15-30 per cent of the general population.  Loneliness is linked to depression, high blood pressure, reduced confidence and lack of self-esteem.   The risk of mortality caused by loneliness is even greater than that caused by obesity.

Skills for People provides a range of social activities including a drama group, a Knit and Natter club, film nights and friendship groups.  Volunteers help to run the activities, supported by paid staff.

The grant from Northumberland Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Liz Wright, the Chief Executive of Skills for People said:

‘We’re very grateful to Northumberland Freemasons for their generous grant which will help local people with learning disabilities have fun, learn new skills and, most importantly, make new friends.  Some members didn’t have one friend before they joined our programme. The positive impact on mental and physical health can be enormous. ‘

Brian Rudd from Northumberland Freemasons said:

“We’re very pleased to be able to help Skills for People. They do outstanding work for those with learning difficulties, including reducing the very serious problems caused by chronic loneliness.”

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