FUNDING HAS BEEN AWARDED TO HELP LOCAL PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES FIND LOVE

 A community interest company that supports people in Preston and across the wider Lancashire area has received a grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, to develop their friendship and dating agency – and to launch it into Greater Manchester.

Spring into Action have received a grant of £182,681 from the Reaching Communities Fund, to develop Meet ‘N’ Match – a friendship and dating agency for adults with a learning disability and/or autism. The organisation, which has been running since 2012, took over the Meet N Match project in June 2018, after its founding organisation The U Night Group, felt Spring into Action was more able to develop and grow it.

Director of Spring into Action and Meet N Match Project Coordinator, Lucy Hamlin, told Podio Preston,“I have been working on the project alongside The U Night Group for the past three years [and] people in the Greater Manchester area have been asking us for the last 12 months to develop into that area. I’m so grateful that the National Lottery Community Fund understood what we are trying to achieve and are supporting the development of the project over the next three years

The Meet N Match project has been running since 2016. Over that time they have engaged with approximately 750 people who have attended their events and had opportunities to meet new people. This funding boost means that for the next three years they are able to further develop and enable people with a learning disability to meet new people and potentially find love.

Lucy adds: “We are more than just a dating agency. Yes people can join and we can look for matches and support them to start, develop and maintain relationships, but we also provide social activities where people can go for a night out – and relationship training, where we teach people how to date and how to stay safe in relationships. Generally, people with a learning disability have limited opportunities to meet their peers and form lasting connections. This can leave them feeling lonely, isolated and depressed. We know that this is one way of improving people’s physical and mental wellbeing, whilst opening up possibilities for the kind of relationships that others take for granted” With the funding, the organisation has been able to appoint a new Marketing & Events Coordinator and an Administrator, adding to their existing Meet N Match Team.

Lizzie Winkfield, Membership Coordinator said: “Having the extra team members means we can better support people, as we have more staff able to take on the workload. This means that I can spend my time matching and supporting people to go on dates!” Meet N Match provide support for the first three dates, assisting people to make the arrangements, they also provide a chaperoned first date and ongoing support. Lizzie adds: “The chaperones are an invaluable resource. For some of our members, this is the first experience of dating that they have ever had. Dating can be a daunting experience for anyone, there are lots of nerves and excitement, but also worry about what to wear and how to act. Nerves can get the better of some people, so having a chaperone really helps people, they can make the initial introductions on a date and then be around for practical or emotional support before, during and after. Don’t worry though, they are not on the date, they are more like in the background and there if a couple needs them.

The Supported Loving Network, of which Meet N Match is a part of, found that only 3% of people with a learning disability live with a partner, compared to 70% of the general population. They also found that good support is the key in enabling people to develop and maintain relationships. Lucy added: “We also acknowledge the need to provide additional information and support to help the process of developing relationships, so we also offer lots of information, guidance, advice and specialist training, in addition to signposting to other agencies. We are so grateful for the National Lottery for their financial support, as it offers a great opportunity for some of the most vulnerable local citizens to get together, with a view to finding anything from someone with a shared interest in finding true love.

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For more information about the project, call Lucy on 07956 018422 or email lucy@meet-n-match.co.uk

Websites: www.meet-n-match.co.uk / www.spring-projects.co.uk

Facebook: Facebook.com/MeetNMatchNW / Facebook.com/SpringProjects

Twitter: @MeetnMatchNW / @SpringAndYou

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