This dating and friendship agency is run by and for people with learning disabilities

This dating and friendship agency is run by and for people with learning disabilities

We are all on the lookout for "the one", but the search for true love can be exhausting. First dates can be awkward encounters that remind you just how hard it is to find someone you click with.

The secret to most successful romances seems to be a solid friendship and some shared interests and hobbies. That’s the approach taken by dates-n-mates, a National Lottery-funded dating and friendship agency run by and for adults with learning disabilities.

Credit: Dates-n-mates

The agency, which was launched 11 years ago, operations in four locations in Scotland: Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Aberdeen and Falkirk. As well as providing opportunities for its members to meet new people and try new things, it helps them develop their social skills and boost their confidence and independence.

Each brand of dates-n-mates hosts up to six social events each month for its members. They range from creative workshops and club nights, to meals out, karaoke, bowling, cinema trips, quizzes, speed dating and LGBTQ events.

Craig met Kirsty at a dates-n-mates event. "I used to be a bit shy and I don’t speak to people when I’m shy, I just sit by myself," says the 35-year-old. "I was upset and my family set me up with dates-n-mates"

Kirsty says dates-n-mates provided her with a safe place to socialise with like-minded individuals. "Before I met Craig it was boring," she explained. "I watched TV on my own. I had nothing to do."

The couple met at a ‘Blind Date’ event and recently attended the dates-n-mates Masquerade Ball together.

Credit: Dates-n-mates

Dates-n-mates Project and Volunteer Development Coordinator, Lesley says demand for the schemes services is increasing as “attitudes to people with learning disabilities change and as there is increasing awareness of the physical health implications for people suffering from feelings of isolation and loneliness."

Now, thanks to The National Lottery support, dates-n-mates boasts a membership of more than 350 across Scotland, with around 380 non-members participating in open events including Club LATE, as well as Valentines and Christmas parties. Additionally, 100 per cent of families and carers of dates-n-mates members reported that they had seen an increase in their loved ones'

The heart of the initiative, however, lies with those it has brought together, and the unequivocal impact its made on their lives. As Kirsty reflects: "I wanted number one and he was number one. I couldn’t believe I picked him."

This is a sponsored article in association with The National Lottery.