Mates n Dates is a Friendship and Leisure Project established over 10 years ago to give adults with learning disabilities living in and around Oxfordshire greater access to leisure activities which most of us take for granted and a better social life, with the chance of forming friendships or more, in a safe and supportive environment.

Mates n Dates is based in Witney, but organises a range of social events across the County, ranging from coffee mornings and park walks to barn dances, karaoke nights, nightclub events, or even speed dating. Mates n Dates also facilitate various groups such as OX18, the Under 35, Women Only and LGBT groups.

Before I joined Mates n Dates I didn't go out in the evenings unless it was a family occasion, because I have speech problems I found it very hard to make friends. Now I can look forward to going out. It gives me something to look forward to. I made so many friends. Member

The project counts over 200 members between the age of 18 and 75 with the large majority attending our various events regularly. Members tell us the project makes a huge difference in their lives; giving them a unique chance to: access a range of experiences they wouldn't be able to access otherwise, such as meet new people, build trusted friendships, in some cases partnerships. They also feel the project helps them with their confidence and self-esteem.  The events are organised in such a way that they no longer feel frightened to go out, unsafe, judged or isolated. Instead they report feeling happier, valued and optimistic about their lives.

This work wouldn't be possible without the dedicated support of approximately 30 community volunteers who get involved in all aspects of the project (e.g. organisation/promotion members transport and facilitation of self-directed groups).

Working with adults with learning difficulties really pushed me out of my comfort zone. It challenged my preconceptions about disability and resulted in a complete re-evaluation. It has made me more tolerant and able to cope with everyday life. Seeing the hurdles that some members have to contend with in life is really humbling and makes you appreciate what you have. Volunteer

To maintain and develop this work and respond to demand, we really need help with donations of or financial contribution towards:

  • Support with the production of specialist information packs including a Keep Safe Pack
  • Clinical psychologist input to support specialised training sessions
  • Transport and subsided trips
  • Contribution to the Annual Ball inc. raffle prizes, room decoration, room hire, etc
  • Materials for in-house activities
  • Subsidised printing costs for newsletters
  • Free or subsidised venue
  • Karaoke machine, microphone and music
  • Computers, cameras, editing software and backdrop (recording / photographic studio equipment)
  • Fancy dress resources
  • Support with promotion and publicity

Mates n Dates also needs caring & supportive volunteers who think they can offer time & experience to the project.