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Title: An exploration of how staff talk about supporting the sexual rights of people with learning disabilities whilst safeguarding them from sexual exploitation
Author: Brown, Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 2701 5018
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2010
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Key messages within the government white paper Valuing People Now (Department of Health, 2009) include that people with learning disabilities have the right to develop relationships, to be parents and to marry or have a civil partnership. This study examined how staff in a learning disability service talk about sexuality support and how they negotiate the empowerment of service users in relation to their sexual rights. These questions were addressed through a discursive psychological analysis of one-to-one interviews with eight members of staff working in a service providing both outreach and residential support to people with I'earning disabilities. The analysi,s demonstrated that how staff support service users' sexual rights, and the opportunities they do or do not create for service users to develop intimate relationships, is not simply a manifestation of internal, individual, 'attitudes', but rather, is a result of the complex relationship between language, the historical; social and cultural context, regulatory practices and institutional structures. Before staff begin to think about providing support in this area, they have to make sense of whether the person they are supporting has a moral entitlement ~o a sexual identity. Some staff in the study drew upon a romantic discourse of sexuality (Hollway, 1989), which produced service users as 'asexual'. However, other staff drew upon discourses of sexuality that were broader than the romantic discourse and this helped to construct people with learning disabilities as partially, if not fully entitled to a sexual identity. The analysis also demonstrated that in providing sexuality support, staff members have to negotiate a number of practice dilemmas. For example, staff have to manage competing service priorities, such as those of 'health' and 'risk management', consider their personal and professional boundaries and interpret (vague) service ideologies of protection and empowerment. Underlying some of these difficulties are problems with the interpretation of the philosophy of 'normalisation' (Wolfensberger, 1980) as it applies to the sexual lives of people with learning disabilities. Implications of this analysis for clinical psychologists, services and policy are discussed and a number of recommendations are made for clinical practice. These include clinical psychologists taking a role in person centred planning processes, supporting staff to take a deconstructive approach to sexuality and to find a respectful way in which to talk about such a culturally taboo topic.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available