A woman has set up a dating and friendship agency for adults with learning difficulties and autism after watching her sister struggle to find love.
Helena Reed says her 28-year-old sibling Jessica is often frustrated in her attempts to make new friends and find romance.
She did not feel comfortable with her sister using existing websites for people special needs, citing security and safety issues, so came up with the idea of ‘ happily ’, the not-for-profit agency which launched at the end of July and aims to cater for the whole of London.
Ms Reed, 29, said: “My sister is interested in what everyone else is interested in, which is making friends and potentially finding a boyfriend.
“But she finds it really hard. There’s not really a service out there that provides adequate support and safety.”
The sisters grew up in Holland Park and now live in Notting Hill .
Ms Reed is a volunteering co-ordinator for Yarrow Housing, an organisation based in Shepherd’s Bush which provides housing and a day centre for people learning difficulties in parts of London including Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Richmond.
She says charities and organisations arrange social events but it tends attended by the same people.
The idea of happily is for users to meet new people in a safe and caring environment.
She said: “Jessica tried mainstream websites that support and cater for people with learning difficulties but I didn’t find them very secure.
“There was no management of members that joined, and people were sending inappropriate messages.
“I didn’t feel comfortable exposing my sister to that kind of experience.
“There wasn’t a service dedicated specifically for adults with learning disabilities in London, which had appropriate safeguarding measures in place and was also accessible to members.
“We spoke to families, charities as well as other dating agencies based outside of London who all agreed there was a need for something like happily .”
With happily , prospective members are met beforehand, where they are interviewed so that the agency can get an idea of each person’s personality.
Users are also asked to produce a reference letter and ID, and be honest about the support they may need while on a date or meeting people.
She said: “We’ve tried to create something which is first and foremost safe and works with charities and organisations, which introduces people across London to each other.
“It’s about meeting people in an appropriate way. The members are good quality people with good intentions, and there’s a steady flow looking to join.”
To add to the family feel of the website, also working on happily and helping Ms Reed is her mother Corriene Reed, who is a doctor in psychology.
The launch party took place at Harrow Housing, in Goldhawk Road.
Among those attending was Jason, who is single and expressed an interest in joining happily.
Anyone looking for more information can visit the website .
To become a member or to find out more about volunteering call 07397066761 or email email@example.com
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