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The importance of Supported Loving

Sue Turner, Programme Lead - Learning Disabilities, National Development Team for Inclusion

I attended my first Supported Loving event last week. What a great day. Sexual relationships are an important part of most people’s lives, but for people with learning disabilities this is often not the case.

Supported loving is a network of people with learning disabilities, families, support staff, providers and others who want to raise awareness of this issue and work to create the right conditions so that people with learning disabilities can develop relationships like everyone else.

I think the thing that struck me most was how (understandable) concerns about people’s safety led to unacceptable restrictions on people’s lives, and yet what people wanted was a safe space to talk about relationships and sex – not to be kept safe from them. Providing good information and support is in fact a good way to safeguard individuals. And good sex education is an important place to start. But we heard from Gillian Leno, a personal sex education trainer that in her experience young people with learning disabilities often had either no information or misinformation about sex. As a result, it was not unusual for people to talk about sex as if it was something to be scared of, and out of their control.

As well as good sex education, good ongoing support is needed, and, people needed to be able to make mistakes. How many of us after all have not made mistakes in relationships? It is the way we learn. Denying people the opportunity to experience the ups and downs of life is not helpful and does not allow people to grow emotionally.

As one presenter noted:

"Support workers must have the ability to ‘support my loving’, to see this as part of their job and get information out there for people - as generally people with learning disabilities are very disconnected."

For anyone who isn’t convinced, I think this film first shown on channel 4 news clearly shows the benefits of good relationships and is a far better argument than any I can make. If you haven’t seen it, please watch now!

Sue Turner, National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)
Programme Lead - Learning Disabilities
Email: sue.turner@ndti.org.uk 
Telephone: 07837 935 500

The views expressed in the Supported Loving blog are not necessarily those of Choice Support.

Join the Supported Loving network here or contact Dr Claire Bates for more information about Supported Loving.

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