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As a carer, your job is to make sure your clients’ needs are met and their wellbeing is taken care of, but what about their sexual health? Who do you turn to when you need to help people with disabilities enjoy sexual relationships?
In order to influence policies so that more disabled people can explore their sexual wellness and enjoy healthy relationships, therapist, consultant, campaigner and author Tuppy Owens started the Outsiders Trust in the 1980s and Sexual Health and Disability Alliance (Shada) in 2005. Owens says that a man who approached Outsiders for help with his predicament has become a “guinea pig” for Shada’s new sexual advocacy group, ASAP (Ask A Sexual Advocacy Professional).
The man’s predicament is that he can’t speak or move, whilst his girlfriend is more able physically but has learning difficulties. The couple want to have sex but have no way of getting started, but the group should be qualified to help them, as it comprises of a sex and massage therapist, a counsellor, a Bodywork specialist and a former sex worker-turned carer. Owens said, ‘First of all we need to educate the girl, with her permission, then we need to get them together somehow.’
Healthcare professionals frequently call the Outsiders sex and disability helpline, as they are aware that their clients have needs that they are unable or unwilling to fulfil. The organisation will put them in touch with someone who can, usually a paid sex-worker which, as Owens is tired of explaining, is not illegal in this country. Owens commented that the problem ‘is that there is so much fear. Care homes are always so terrified that it will get into the press and there will be a big scandal.’
Sex is so easy for most of use that it’s very easy to underestimate its importance. Sex is incredibly connected to wellbeing, as it is not just about a physical need but also a healthy self-esteem. One Outsiders client has noted, ‘There is this overwhelming sense of achievement that I have somehow fulfilled my calling as a man and my self-esteem is lifted for a few important moments.’