New research has sparked fears of a mental health crisis facing disabled people.

Almost two thirds (61per cent) now experience "chronic loneliness", feeling lonely always or often, according to research by disability charity Sense.

Those numbers rise to 7 in 10 (70pc) of young disabled people, aged 16 to 24. And Sense has called for urgent government action.

Saihan Islam, 17, from Mile End has autism. He says the isolation and loneliness isn’t a new thing in his life.

“My experience of loneliness is continuous still to this day. Even before this pandemic, I have always stayed at home just watching TV and just doing schoolwork.

"When I was at my old school, I always sat alone during break and lunchtime. I was just on the computer looking for something to do and playing games.

"Even in my lessons, I would sit alone. When there was partner work, no one would want to work with me. Therefore, I would just do it by myself. I lost confidence in myself and always being belittled.

“I accepted it a long time ago. The only thing I find fun is doing schoolwork, learning and eating food. Every day, I always check my emails just in case there are any opportunities or things today.”

More than a third (37pc) of disabled people said they were chronically lonely before the pandemic, rising to one in two (54pc) for 16 to 24-year-olds. A third of disabled people would be limited to having under an hour interaction with someone else, each day.

More than two thirds (70pc) of disabled people now say that social isolation is affecting their mental health and wellbeing, with two in five reporting an impact on their physical health. This has led to the majority of disabled people believing that the government should prioritise tackling mental health issues caused by the pandemic once the vaccination rollout is complete.

Richard Kramer, Sense chief executive, said: “Throughout the pandemic the needs of disabled people have been overlooked, and they have often felt forgotten.”

“The government must recognise the severe impact the pandemic is having on disabled people and improve the support available, so they are not left isolated and cut off from society.”