Relationships are risky things — heartache is part and parcel of having them. Claire Bates (Supported Loving), joins Sui Ling (BBC Radio 4) on her journey exploring what happens when people who need support want relationships.
As part of my work running Supported Loving, I was lucky to meet Sui Ling, the absolute star presenter of the BBC Radio 4’s documentary Assisted Loving. Sui Ling was joined by author Kathy Lette, who is the mother of a son with autism.
During the documentary Kathy talks to a group of mothers whose children are now all adults with learning disabilities. I found this profoundly thought-provoking. They shared similar issues to many of the staff I speak to in my role at Supported Loving. Feelings such as walking a tightrope between wanting people to experience life, love and sex but expressing concerns about the risks that this can entail.
People who need support around relationships and sex are at a higher risk of sexual abuse. This is made worse by a lack of sex education and being in a system where a lot of people are unclear of the law, especially surrounding mental capacity.
The program clearly highlights what Supported Loving has been saying from the start. What is needed is that everyone come together and start talking about the issues so that people who need support can have loving relationships and fulfilling sex lives.
We need to make sure everyone, starting with people with learning disabilities themselves, their families, social care staff and other professionals are educated on sex and relationships. It is only through honest and open discussions that we can start tackling the genuine concerns people have in this area and put things in place to help mitigate any risks.
Relationships are risky things, but without love, how dull our lives would be? For a start country and western music may never have existed…