Learning disability charity FitzRoy has been awarded a much-needed grant of over £225,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund to continue to run its Love4Life friendship and dating project for people with learning disabilities and autism in Hampshire.
Love4Life currently has 130 members who meet up, make friends, experience new activities, and even fall in love. While many of us take it for granted that we can socialise and make friends, there can be complex barriers for people with learning disabilities – something this project seeks to address. Research has shown that more than half of disabled people report feeling lonely, rising to three-quarters for young disabled people.
FitzRoy relies on fundraising to keep Love4Life running and thanks to the National Lottery’s Reaching Communities grant, the Love4Life project is now secure for three years.
Love4Life manager Hayley Ostler-Noland said: “The impact of coronavirus and lockdown has reinforced how vital Love4Life is – not just for making friends and widening social circles, but also for people’s mental health and support networks. This funding really is a lifeline.”
Being part of Love4Life is transformational, with many members going from having almost no friends or socialisation, to being surrounded by love, friendship, and support on a regular basis.
Love4Life member Alex said: “It’s been a transformation, from feeling very lonely and isolated to feeling like I’ve got everything I’ve ever dreamed of.”
Hayley said: “With this core funding secured, we can now focus our fundraising efforts on expanding into other areas, and on building our long-term viability. Demand for Love4Life membership is increasing, we are getting requests from across the South East and we don’t want anyone to miss out. We are appealing for people, businesses and community groups who would like to support Love4Life to get in touch.”
Helen Bushell, Head of Regional Funding for London, the South East and East of England at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen communities suffer from loneliness and isolation; it’s therefore heartening to see organisations like FitzRoy building connections in their community. We’re delighted to
support their mission to help people with learning disabilities and autism make friends and find love.”