Susan is an energetic and passionate parent and carer who works hard to ensure that her son Pete, who has a learning disability, lives a full and meaningful life. We first met at a Community Catalysts workshop in York, where we briefly discussed the possibility of channelling Susan’s energy into some kind of creative endeavour. Shortly after, we arranged to meet again, this time with Pete and two of his personal assistants.
Pete currently has a team of eight personal assistants who, along with his mum, offer him plenty of care and support. However Pete was clear that something was missing in his life and the people around him could see how important this was to him.
I have Personal Assistants (PAs) and friends and go out quite a lot, but I would now like to meet a girlfriend, to spend time with and have fun, but at the moment I can’t do this as there is nowhere to meet them Pete
As the lead of the Community Catalysts Enterprising Communities Project, my role is to identify the gaps in supports and services and then help local people establish new ventures to fill these gaps. Susan was keen to help Pete establish a dating agency for people with learning disabilities in York and this seemed an excellent fit with the project.
I linked Pete, Susan and the team with an established organisation in West Yorkshire, who were running the kind of dating agency Pete and his Mum had in mind. Susan also made connections with another similar organisation and several emails were exchanged. As a result of this early fact finding some drawbacks to the dating agency plan were identified and after a quick rethink everyone decided to slightly change tack.
Pete’s new plan is to set up an enterprise with a focus on friendship and social connection, particularly for people who feel lonely or isolated. Pete and Susan hope this new venture will offer people an opportunity to meet new people, recognising the potential for friendships to develop into something more serious over time.
It feels particularly appropriate to share Pete and Susan’s story as part of Carers Week in the hope it might inspire other carers to establish their own community enterprise and/or inspire the person they support to do the same.
It’s important to have friends, and even a special someone in our lives, and this is no different for people with learning disabilities. We hope to see our new venture become a force of good within our local community by providing people with learning disabilities improved opportunities for meaningful social engagement – helping people to lift themselves out of loneliness, enhancing their quality of life and achieving greater personal independence Susan
It’s still early days for Pete and Susan’s enterprise, but they are already in the process of enlisting the help of several other people, venues and organisations in York – making connections and making things happen – and I very much look forward to continuing to help them to help themselves and others to create the lives they want.
York Community Catalyst