This week (14-20 September) is Sexual Health Week and this year’s theme is relationships and sex education; two very important topics for the wellbeing of people we support.
As Mary Schumm tells us:
“We know through our own lives and through our work supporting people that relationships are one of the single most important things that matter – both intimate relationships and friendships with others. Those relationships matter to all of us, regardless of our background, disabilities, faith, sexual orientation and the wider rich diversity of how we can live our lives and what we believe in.
Love literally is a basic human right – the Human Rights Act protects everyone’s rights to a ‘private life’ (including respect for one’s sexuality) and ‘family life’ which means all types of close, stable relationships including familial ones and romantic ones. This means that working to support people with building positive healthy relationships is not only the right thing to do, it is also the legal thing to do!
Sexual health and sex education is one important way we can meaningfully work with people to start building skills, confidence and knowledge around positive intimate relationships. Many people we support with learning disabilities have not had the chance to even learn the right terms and phrases for many parts of their body – let alone their intimate areas, nor the chance to learn about sexual acts, or what consent means. This can increase a person’s vulnerability to abuse and poorly informed decision making.
Some women we support, particularly in our mental health services, may be working as sex workers or involved in complex intimate relationships with others and sexual health is of paramount importance to helping them maintain as healthy a life as possible. Sex education and sexual health support can form a crucial foundation for good risk management work.
Last year, we developed a new Sex and Intimate Relationships policy which set out our values and principles for this area of work. We will be reviewing it within the next year to make sure it provides the clarity everyone needs to feel safe and work positively.”