Last reviewed: April 2016 | Next review: June 2020

Our vision is a future where the personal and sexual relationships of people with a learning disability are accepted and barriers to having a loving relationship are removed. We want to see individuals supported to have positive, healthy, informed and safe relationships.

People with a learning disability have a right to develop loving relationships and must be free to express their sexual identity like anyone else. Adults and young people also have the right to have consensual sex.

Personal and sexual relationships can bring happiness, fulfilment, companionship and a greater sense of independence.

Current situation

Many people with a learning disability say that relationships are important to them - yet only 3% of people with a learning disability live as a couple, compared to 70% of the general adult population. 

The issues

Several barriers are making it difficult for people with a learning disability to have personal and sexual relationships:

  • Meeting people is more difficult. 
  • Social isolation is more common.
  • The balance between risk and rights when it comes to people with a learning disability having intimate or sexual relationships is often skewed towards restricting their choices, both in the family home and other living arrangements.
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with a learning disability can face ‘double discrimination’, with their sexual rights denied on the basis of their learning disability as well as their sexual orientation or gender identity.

These social attitudes are restricting, which means that people with a learning disability are often not getting the freedom or privacy to have intimate or sexual relationships.

These attitudes are also causing a real lack in inclusive sex education for people with a learning disability.

Relationships and sex easy read vision statement

Download the easy read version of our vision statement on relationships and sex. Personal and sexual relationships can bring happiness, fulfilment, companionship and a greater sense of independence

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Relationships and sex vision statement

Download our relationships and sex vision statement to print off and read

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Young man sits on his bed

What we want

We want people with a learning disability to be able to develop positive, informed, healthy and safe intimate or sexual relationships. For that to be possible, we need to have:

  1. support to meet other people and form relationships
  2. access to high quality and accessible sex education
  3. the opportunity to express their sexuality and to have intimate relationships
  4. their rights and wishes to have intimate relationships balanced against any risks around safety and abuse.

Our position on relationships and sex is relevant to people with a learning disability who have the capacity to consent. 

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