Hft is preparing to expand its friendship and dating service for people with learning disabilities or autism with the launch of a new branch in Wales.
The Luv2meetU service is focused on supporting people with learning disabilities and their families to develop and sustain relationships, improve their health and wellbeing, and extend their social networks.
Funding for the new project comes from the Welsh Assembly’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund, which has provided around £52,000 for the charity to launch the new branch in Flintshire, north Wales.
Since launching in 2010, Luv2meetU now covers 10 local authority areas and has a number of spin-off projects, including No Limits, which organises activities for adults with autism and Asperger’s syndrome in Kirklees, West Yorkshire.
Hft said it chose rural Flintshire as the location for the new branch in a bid to address the increased risk of loneliness and isolation that people face there.
Luv2meetU Flintshire will be based at Hft’s new day opportunities centre, Hwb Cyfle, which provides local people with learning disabilities with a specialist environment, where they can access opportunities such as supported employment in their local community.
The aim is to run around eight events a month, including running, museum visits, meals out, gigs, sports classes, theatre and cinema trips, and any other activities that members express an interest in.
They will also be running singles events, chaperoning dates and hosting workshops on topics such as personal safety, developing confidence and sexual health.
It is hoped that 60 to 80 adults with learning disabilities or autism in Wales will benefit from the service.
Karen England, project development manager at Luv2meetU, said: “Programmes like Luv2meetU are essential to the wellbeing of people with learning disabilities or autism. That’s why we’re delighted to be able to extend Luv2meetU into Wales, which doesn’t have any other friendship and dating agencies of this kind.
“We all have a right to make friends, go dating and maybe even find love, and people with learning disabilities are no exception. We’re looking forward to welcoming lots of new members from Wales, and offering them a new way to socialise, have fun and be themselves.”
Luv2meetU was originally set up as a pilot in the Leeds and Wakefield area in 2007, supporting 40 people to get out and about, socialise and build friendships.
The team now supports around 250 to 300 people with services in areas including Bradford, Kirklees, Bristol, Sheffield, Newcastle, Cheshire and Leeds.