12th February 2019 • Emma Cooper
Stretham friends Christine O’Neil and Vicky Baddeley are launching a brand new friendship and dating agency. This is with the help of a welcome £10,000 Big Lottery grant.
The service is for adults with learning disabilities and autism, who live in Cambridgeshire and are 18+ years old.
Passionate that people with additional needs do not need to feel lonely. This service helps people find friends and that special someone in a safe way without resorting to risky online dating.
The agency, called Safe Soulmate, came about as result of long discussions on the subject of loneliness, as well as consultation with many adults who live in Cambridgeshire, to find out whether or not the service was needed. The answer was a resounding, yes please!
Christine, who has a background in the learning disability sector, is passionate about filling the void in services that currently exists. She said, ‘As well as working alongside children with special needs, something I absolutely love, I am also a befriender. It was after talking to my befriendee about boyfriends, that I realised that there was nothing in this area to help people who have some kind of additional need to find suitable and safe relationships.’
People with additional needs want relationships too
Vicky, who works as a befriending co-ordinator for a learning disability charity, also knows from experience that there are many adults with additional needs who are desperately lonely for friendship as well as relationships. She added, ‘People not only want relationships, but many simply want a friend to talk to, someone they can get to know and socialise with outside of work and college. Often the issue is proximity, people may have friends, but they often live a long way from one another. We want to help bridge the gap and run fun events like club nights, picnic parties and gaming get-togethers, as well as provide a one-to-one matching service’.
Both highlighted the fact that Safe Soulmate is not an online dating /friendship service which can sometimes be risky, rather they visit people in their homes to find out what individuals are looking for – new friends, a relationship or both. They will be working closely with Dhiverse, which runs helpful and popular workshops around the issues of friendships, relationships, boundaries, sex, and online safety.
‘We recognise that it’s crucial for everyone involved to know what’s expected when they find that perfect partner. Our priority is for people to have fun in a safe way’, they agreed.
The Safe Soulmate launch event taking place on February 23rd is now fully booked, but the agency will be running another large event in April. If you would like to be on the mailing list for tickets for the next event, then you can email firstname.lastname@example.org