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Mates 'n Dates

Lead service provider/commissioner


Guideposts Trust

Type of knowledge

Type of knowledge:

Project description only

Prevention service description

Mates ‘n’ Dates was founded in 2007 in response to the founder, a Clinical Psychologist who was part of the Learning Disability team in Oxfordshire, experience of hearing of how people with Learning Disabilities struggled to find opportunities to form sexual or romantic relationships. This results in them feeling lonely and with no way of connecting to other similar adults, led to the idea of a dating agency which was initially funded by the Oxfordshire Partnership Board. Mates ‘n Dates acts as both a dating agency and as a social event organiser. The dating agency is open to people with learning disabilities over the age of 18, who are known to learning disability services and who are within the agency’s geographical area. Members pay a £20 annual fee and can be referred or refer themselves. The agency then arranges an initial meeting where members fill out an application form to join, members discuss their hopes and likes/dislikes as part of this. The joining process also has a referee process, with two referees, which features safety checks including a declaration of any historical involvement with the police.

Once a member has joined the agency they are supported to arrange one to one dates with people they want to meet and can be provided with transport help and/or chaperone where necessary. Following the date the agency gets feedback from members and helps then to plan future dates if requested. In addition to one to one dates the agency arranges social events including Grand Balls, regular nightclub evenings in Oxford City, and speed dating events which allow people gain more experience of dating interactions. The speed dating evenings are structured and supported including role playing dating scenarios, including ‘bad dates’, couple conversation activities with supporting ‘prompt sheets with conversation starters and then more traditional speed dating opportunities where couples change after 5 minutes to allow all men and women to meet. Following all the activities members have the opportunity for a debrief with the Mates ‘Dates team members to feedback about their experience and to register any members they may potentially match with. Any matches are then organised with the potential for one to one dates.

Intervention/service type:

Befriending, mentoring and peer support

Target client group(s):

Adults with learning disabilities

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