Scheme that helps disabled people enjoy nightlife ‘struggling to get enough volunteers’

More volunteers are needed for a scheme that pairs people with a learning disability with a friend who they can enjoy Cardiff’s nightlife with.

Learning Disability Wales said there is ‘a long waiting list’ for people wanting a ‘gig buddy’ – which matches adults who have a learning disability with a volunteer who has similar interests so they can enjoy social activities together.

People who have a learning disability are one of the most at-risk groups for loneliness in the UK and much of the traditional support on offer concentrates on daytime activities.

Kai Jones, Gig Buddies Project Coordinator at Learning Disability Wales, said: “There are lots of people in Wales who want a gig buddy, so we have got a long waiting list. We continually make brilliant matches, but we’re struggling to get enough volunteers to come in.

“About 18 months ago, we had to pause applications from people with a learning disability and we’re concentrating on matching all the people that are waiting and trying to find new volunteers for those people.”

What is a learning disability?

According to the charity Sense, no two people with a learning disability are the same. A learning disability affects someone’s intellect generally across all areas of their life. Some people who have a learning disability may take longer to learn new things or understand complex information.

Many people who have a learning disability can live independently, while others may need day-to-day support.

The type of support volunteers offer their gig buddy depends on the individual’s needs, but typically it could involve making sure their buddy is comfortable with noisy crowds or assisting with calculating how much food or drink costs.

Richie and his volunteer gig buddy Mark enjoy going to see live music together in Cardiff and talking about their shared interest in football. “We’ve been going to see gigs left, right and centre,” Richie said. Their latest gig was to see Malawai dance duo Madalitso Band at Clwb Ifor Bach.

The scheme has also meant Mark and Richie can share their own interests and hobbies with each other. “We went to New Wave Wrestling, which is UK wrestling, at St Andrew’s Church over in Roath,” Mark said.

“It was amazing. That’s a new experience for me because I’ve never really been a big wrestling fan or anything, but Richie is, so he’s got me into all of it.”

Richie (front left) and Mark (front right) at a wrestling event they attended together

Learning Disability Wales said the scheme is particularly important given the move to a cashless society which can be challenging for people with a learning disability. This could be because they may not have a bank account or smartphone so paying for goods through an app or by card can be impossible.

If you are interested in signing up to become a Gig Buddy volunteer on Learning Disability Wales’ website.