An innovative project to improve access to services, information and advice around sexual health, sex and relationships for people with learning disabilities (PWLD) has launched in Hackney.
The initiative is being run by the sexual health charity FPA over the next year, and anybody in the borough who works with, or would like to work with, PWLD of all ages can access free training and support.
Participants will learn about a range of issues, from the law around sex and learning disability to dealing with sensitive subjects like masturbation and pornography.
There will also be support for schools in writing lesson plans and for professionals producing easy-to-understand materials about contraception, sexually transmitted infections and where to find support if something goes wrong.
Crucially, the project includes a new specialist sexual health service called The Right Choice Clinic at the Ivy Centre, St Leonard's Hospital.
Coordinator Claire Lightley said: “As well as enabling people to exercise their right to enjoy relationships and explore their sexuality, this is a really important project to help protect vulnerable people.
“By working with professionals we can raise awareness of exploitation, particularly around online risks, and give people the support they need to stay safe from harm.
"Ignoring people’s sexual health and sexuality just because they have a learning disability can have a hugely detrimental effect.”
As well as working directly with at least 100 carers, teachers, youth workers and other staff, FPA’s coordinator will also run a ‘train the trainer’ course, which will mean professionals in Hackney will be able to train their own peers going forward, giving the project sustainability to continue beyond the year of funding.
FPA Chief Executive, Natika H Halil, said: “FPA has many years of experience in working with people with learning disabilities of all ages, and especially in supporting the professionals who work with them.
“We know that lots of people with learning disabilities can feel quite lonely and isolated because they don’t have the opportunity to express themselves as sexual beings, and we recognise how important it is for staff to be confident on safeguarding issues and understand the balance of both enabling people and keeping them safe.”
Councillor Jonathan McShane, Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Devolution, said: “This new project from FPA will put in place a wide range of tailored services to provide information to professionals while also supporting residents from across Hackney who may have found it difficult to use sexual health services in the past.
“It is vital that everyone is able to get the advice or help they need to stay healthy when it comes to sex and sexual relationships.
"That’s why innovative work like this, funded through the council’s Healthier Hackney Fund, is such an important addition to existing health services in our borough.”
For more information about the project, contact email@example.com
Pictured are (from left) Claire Lightley, Coun. Rosemary Sales, Speaker of Hackney, Dr Katherine Coyne and David Wright.