Agency defends controversial 'Undateables' TV show

By Steve Hayes 03/04 Updated: 03/04 10:23

'The Undateables' which starts this week features people with a range of disabilities looking for love. (s)

THE BOSS of a dating agency at the centre of a controversial television documentary where disabled people look for love says she hopes the show changes people's attitudes to love.

Searchmate dating agency, based in Alcester, features in documentary series, 'The Undateables', which starts on Channel 4 tonight (Tuesday).

The programme follows people with various disabilities, such as facial deformities, on a quest for love as the agency tries to set them up with potential partners.

The programme hit the headlines before it was even broadcast as people branded it 'offensive' and even likened to a Victorian freak show.

But Searchmate's managing director, Stratford woman Jaci Barton, insisted the series is aimed at 'turning society's prejudice on its head'.

She did however say working with the group of eight - which included a man with Down Syndrome, a man with a serious bone condition which causes facial deformities and another with tourettes - was 'very challenging'.

"We were really excited to be asked to be part of this programme," she said.

"Searchmate has always been proud of the fact that the system we operate can work for everyone.

"The rules of Searchmate were no different for the clients in the programme than they are for all members. All our clients are carefully interviewed to ensure we are right for them and they are right for us and that they are in the right place in their life to look for a new relationship and grasp the opportunties we can create for them.

"We had achieved relationships for disabled clients and clients with impairments in the past and were happy to try for the clients that Channel 4 brought us.

"We found it very challenging. We don’t think any wedding bells were ringing in the few weeks we were given to work with them but we really hope we have opened their eyes to the possibilities out there for them.

"And we hope the programme will open society’s eyes to the fact there is more to love than what the other person looks or sounds like.

"Dating for the Disabled is certainly a service Searchmate will consider expanding into in the future."

The documentary starts on Channel 4 at 9pm tonight (Tuesday).

Buy photos» Jaci Barton, managing director of Searchmate, says the programme aims to turn society's prejudice on its head. (s)

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