A relationship support service for people with learning disabilities
This paper describes the background to, and process of, setting up a Relationship Support Service for individuals with learning disabilities. The service was funded as a pilot project in response to the unmet needs of service users with learning disabilities and their carers. Superficially, the service functions like a conventional dating agency but without any discrimination of sexual orientation or preference. However, unlike a conventional dating agency, this is a learning disability service, providing opportunities for personal development. For individuals who meet the application criteria and safety checks, the service may provide an opportunity to meet potential friends and partners. However, a crucial aspect of the service is that, aside from offering introductions, it provides continued support in maintaining friendships and relationships over time. This paper outlines the rationale behind the service, the obstacles that have been overcome, the application procedures and the safeguards that are in place, and reports some preliminary data on service uptake. This pilot study emphasises both the feasibility and potential benefits of setting up this much-needed service.