Dates-n-Mates Independence Day
Dates-n-Mates (datesnmates.org.uk) has been a project of C-Change since it started in 2008. At the end of this financial year, it will become an independent registered charity and will celebrate its own Independence Day.
The project started because it is not possible to live a good life without opportunities to develop relationships and find love and happiness. Unfortunately, all these aspects of life can be harder for people with learning disabilities. Often disabled children attend ‘special schools’ outwith their local communities, making it harder for them to develop peer groups in their local neighbourhoods. This can have a lasting impact with learning disabled people experiencing higher rates of loneliness and isolation than the general population.
Public transport and many community venues are inaccessible, and/or not actively inclusive, making it more difficult for learning disabled people to maintain connections and sustain relationships.
In addition, discriminatory societal attitudes rooted in the perception of learning, disabled people as forever children, increases the hurdles people face when seeking love and friendship.
Much has been achieved in the last 15 years. Dates-n-Mates has grown as the first national dating and friendship agency in Scotland. It operates in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Aberdeen, Falkirk, and also in Stirling and Clackmannanshire. It has garnered awards and the Directors, all with lived experience of learning disability, are recognised as leaders in their field. They are much sought after as public speakers and thought leaders in Scotland and beyond (Open University conference).
And yet, there is more to do to ensure learning disabled people have their rights respected, protected, and upheld so that everyone can live a life with love and friendship. That our communities are safe and accessible, and everyone feels welcome. The independent Dates-n-Mates will continue to strive to make this our reality and we at C-Change are here, as allies, to support this work in every way we can.
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