Success for Umbrella dating agencyBy Julie Spencer
August 22, 2012
A new friendship and dating service for people with learning disabilities is celebrating success after two clients went on their first date.
The couple enjoyed a meal out in Windsor after they met through The Umbrella and are planning a second meeting.
The woman from Bracknell and her new boyfriend from Maidenhead are among the first clients of the relationship service which was launched after winning an £50,000 NHS Leadership Challenge award.
The 42-year-old said: “He’s lovely, just the sort of person I have been looking for. I wasn’t expecting him to give me flowers.
“It was very romantic. We had a nice meal together and then went for a walk by the river. I am really looking forward to seeing him again.”
The project, which is a collaboration between NHS Berkshire and The Ark Trust, a Crowthorne-based charity which works with people with disabilities, began in February and is open to anyone who has a learning disability or acquired brain injury or is on the autistic spectrum. Andrea McCombie-Parker, project manager, said: “After months of hard work behind the scenes, it’s so nice that the first dates are being held.
“About 150 people have shown an interest in joining The Umbrella and we now have more than 60 paid-up members on our books, most of whom are hoping to date.
“Having reached this stage, and with more people joining all the time, we anticipate that our highly trained staff will be matching new couples continually and organising their first dates, all of which are chaperoned.
“We have also been finding out what social activities our members want.”
The Umbrella website includes a database of social and leisure opportunities and has a safe matching service for people looking for friendships and relationships.
The website also has details on accessible teaching sessions to improve knowledge of sexual health and relationship skills and organised group social activities.
The Umbrella annual subscription is £10 and application forms are available on (0118) 380 0107, at email@example.com, or by writing to The Umbrella, The Ark Studios, Ravenswood, Nine Mile Ride, Crowthorne.