Skills for Care

Supporting people with a learning disability or autism to have positive personal relationships

14 Apr 2023

5 min read

Skills for Care

  • Culture and diversity
  • Good news story
  • Learning and development
  • Learning disabilities and autism

Ali Hagger, Director of Operations (Support to Live at Home), Leading Lives shares how the organisation has been supporting people to have healthy personal relationships and ensuring staff are trained up in this area.

Leading Lives supports adults with a learning disability or autism, offering domiciliary support, supported living, daytime opportunities, short break services and short-term enablement.

Ali first started working on the support which the organisation offered around personal relationships about three years ago, having attended a course along with some of her team which was run by Supported Loving looking at how care providers can support people with their relationships and what training staff need to be able to do this effectively.

Ali says that they all found the course very inspiring, and since then Ali has been working on embedding this into their support offer – thinking about what information they can provide directly to the people they support, and what training they can provide to staff to ensure they have the skills and confidence to effectively support people with their personal relationships.

The first element of the work was putting together some introductory training for staff about supporting people with relationships and sexuality. This is a training module which is accessed virtually in an eMagazine style.

The training covers topics including why relationships are important, what it means to have capacity to consent, gender and sexual identity, and how to support people to have healthy and safe relationships. The training is mandatory training for all staff and part of the induction for new-starters.

Ali highlights that the training is also about supporting people with all types of relationships, including friend and family relationships, and helping people to visit new places, try new things and meet new people for social friendships.

The team worked with subject area experts in creating the materials.

Alongside introducing the new training for staff, the organisation updated their care planning processes to include asking people about personal relationships as part of their care planning to learn what support they need or want in this area.

Ali tells us that the response from staff has been really positive, and that she feels the training and talking about the topic has really raised the confidence level of all staff in knowing how to support people with their relationships and being able to have open conversations.

Staff have said they found the training particularly useful in making sure they felt confident and up-to-speed with their knowledge in supporting one of their transgender service users who had recently transitioned.

Following the work providing training for staff, the team then turned their attention to what information they had readily available for the people they support.

They decided to create an accessible document for the people who they support which covers Leading Lives’ policy about how they can support people with their personal relationships, and which also provides information for people about their rights and responsibilities in relationships and other helpful information.

The recently launched document was coproduced with people who draw on care and support to make sure it includes the information that they want. Ali highlights that it’s so important to coproduce this type of work as feedback from people about what they want might not always be as expected, which she says was the case with this work.

Summarising the importance of supporting people with their personal relationships, Ali said:

At the end of the day it’s a human rights issue. It's people we're supporting, and relationships are hugely important to absolutely every human being that exists on the on the planet, no matter who they are, what their needs are, or where they are.

Unfortunately, people with a learning disability or autism haven't had access to the same sex education that maybe other people have. They haven't had access to the same kind of peer conversations necessarily, where you find things out and start exploring things.

Actually, that's a massive failing on behalf of all of us as a society, but now as a support provider it's our role to do that. So, we have to do it and we should do it. It's the right thing to do. And actually, we should have done it before.

Skills for Care and Supported Loving have developed a package of training materials to help social care employers develop the skills and knowledge needed to support people who draw on services with personal relationships.

View the training materials and further guidance.


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