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Still Off-Limits? Staff Views on Supporting Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People with Intellectual Disabilities to Develop Sexual and Intimate Relationships?

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In the UK and elsewhere, there is a growing policy and legislative imperative to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities are supported to develop relationships, including sexual ones. However, gay, lesbian and bisexual people with intellectual disabilities may have additional needs or face particular barriers in this area of their lives. They may require particular kinds of support from the staff who work with them. But how able, or willing, are staff in services to address these issues? Method 

As part of empirical, qualitative research, the authors carried out interviews with 71 staff in 20 intellectual disability services across the UK about their views and experiences of working with people with intellectual disabilities who were, or may have been, gay, lesbian or bisexual. Results 

The majority of staff interviewed said that they did not feel confident working in this area. A number of barriers to doing the work were identified including a lack of policy and training as well as the prejudice of staff and parents/carers. Conclusions 

The reticence of staff to engage with these issues needs addressing especially in the light of the emerging human rights of people with intellectual disabilities to develop sexual and intimate relationships.
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Keywords: gay, lesbian, bisexual; intellectual disability; relationships; sexuality; staff and services

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2007

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