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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging
Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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4 Managing the risks – avoiding harmful relationships

When asked what really matters in their lives, people with learning disabilities say that love, relationships and having friends are all important. But people with learning disabilities are sometimes prevented from developing relationships because of fears about their safety. Family and support workers may be concerned that the person is vulnerable and may worry that a relationship puts them at risk. Sometimes family members feel embarrassed talking to people about sex and relationships; at times staff may worry that they will be blamed if things go wrong (Choice Support, 2019).

Listen to this short clip of support workers discussing some of the challenges of helping people to be in loving relationships.

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One support worker talked about ‘normalising’ the conversation about people with learning disabilities being in relationships. Another spoke of thinking about how it would feel to be in the shoes of the person with learning disabilities. One support worker emphasised that their job was about support and not control. They all identified the need for better training to help support workers understand their role when it comes to relationships.