What is Mates 'n' Dates?

Guideposts Mates n Dates service, based in Oxfordshire, is a specialist dating and friendship service for anyone over 18yrs, diagnosed with a learning disability. We provide opportunities to reduce social isolation and loneliness through social events and chaperoned dates.

The service has been running since October 2007. Set up originally through a collaboration of Psychologists and local providers, and is now solely supported by Guideposts. The service has a planning committee which includes members, , volunteers, and staff.

How does it work?

The service has a membership fee of £60 a year.

The service is purely social, and we do not provide any kind of personal care, only support to organise the event and monitoring where needed.

                Mates n Dates rely on Volunteers to provide this service.

The service promotes member involvement. The current schedule of activities is shaped by member feedback, and agreed by the committee. We run, as well as collaborate in running, a wide range of events and dating opportunities throughout the year to include: an annual ball, an annual barn dance, speed dating sessions across Oxfordshire, night clubs and singles nights, one-to-one chaperoned dates, an LGBT group, a ladies group, karaoke. These are run from a range of sympathetic establishments and some in conjunction other pro groups and advocacy groups (such as My Life My Choice).

Who gets involved?

Member numbers at events average at 10-20 at smaller events, while our ball last year attracted a total of 200, with members and volunteers. Historically attendance has steadily increased and there is never a shortage of demand for the service. We do find that there are barriers to females joining Mates n Dates, and we are trying to address these and enable females to access the service if appropriate.

Where do events takes place?

Our Members come from all across Oxfordshire, although we do not restrict membership to the one county. Some of our members come from just outside our Oxfordshire borders, and so long as an individual can find suitable transport, we generally don't turn anyone away.

How does the application process work?

To join Mates n Dates, members need to be over 18, have a learning disability, and is able to reach us geographically. We accept any kind of referral including self-referral.

The application process involves:

* An initial meeting to discuss the individual's needs and wishes;

* An application form, that includes an agreement around acceptable behavior;

* A referee process, whereby we will conduct some safety checks, including asking for a declaration on any history of involvement with the police, in particular violence or sexual harassment.

Training of professionals

We run a series of workshops across the year to provide information, advice and training to professionals involved with people with learning disabilities. These workshops led by a clinical psychologist specialised in working with adults with learning disabilities aim to achieve the following outcomes for participants attending:

Improve confidence in discussing and making decisions in your work around sex and relationships.

Improve knowledge of the Law (Mental capacity Act and Sexual offences act) and understanding about how to implement this in your role.

Improved practice in supporting service users around this difficult subject.

Provide an opportunity to exchange best practice in this subject amongst practitioners.

Got a question?

If you have any questions or ideas for us, we always welcome your input, and will do our best to help.