Sexual well-being and disability

Authors: Lee, S.

Start date: 8 August 2018

The paper will consider three intersecting factors: Firstly, how representations of disability and traditional social work approaches to working with disabled people denies their identity as sexual beings. The closing down of this aspect of what it is to be human has profound impacts on individual’s health and well-being. It also reinforces discriminatory notions of disabled people as lacking agency and perpetuates normative notions of sexuality. The progress made over recent decades by disabled people, in conjunction with campaigning organisations, to effect societal change is being eroded by austerity policies which have disproportionately impacted on seldom heard voices, including disabled people.

Secondly social workers have privileged access to the spheres of people’s lives which are often kept private, and practitioners are often skilled in discussing sensitive subjects. However, the willingness to acknowledge the significance of sexual well-being, or broach the subject in social work practice is often absent. There is currently little coverage of sexual well-being within social work education, this means students and practitioners lack the knowledge and skills to challenge barriers. Promotion of the concept of sexual citizenship, with its associated rights and responsibilities, enables social workers to engage in rights focused practice. Social workers have responsibilities to challenge discrimination and oppression and to promote citizenship and inclusion and this means addressing the sexual exclusion of disabled is a core social work task. Thirdly the international focus on well-being, which in England has been applied to social work practice through the Care Act, 2014, gives practitioners the opportunity to explore the issues which matter to those with whom they work, and this includes sexual well-being. Findings from the research from which this paper emerges, will be used to illustrate the arguments with examples from lived experienced.

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