Developed in partnership by Together for Short Lives and the Open University Sexuality Alliance, ‘Talking about sex, sexuality and relationships: guidance and standards’ aims to improve the way in which healthcare and education professionals talk to young people with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions about these sensitive subjects.
It also provides guidance to organisations on legal matters and encourages them to provide training to ensure staff can have discussions with young people about their sexuality in a safe environment.
Real life case studies are featured to show how the law applies in practice, along with the views of young people on the specific challenges they face in developing their sexual identities.
The guidance was produced with the assistance of more than 25 young people with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions, and challenges myths regarding disabled young people and sexuality.
The foreword was written by Hameed Jimoh (Junior) and Lucy Watts.
“Sexuality is not rocket science, it’s part of everyday life,” they write. “Hopefully staff using this guidance will understand some of the issues that they may need to address in their daily work, and consequently feel more comfortable, more confident and able to discuss sexuality with young people.”
One of the report’s authors, Dr Sarah Earle, explains that young people with life-limiting conditions “have the right to experience intimacy and to give and receive pleasure, whether that means being able to hold hands, fall in love, or enjoy sexual expression in all its forms. We have developed this guidance to ensure that this right can be realised by all young people.”
Lizzie Chambers, development director at Together for Short Lives, adds: “The growing number of young people now living into adulthood with life-limiting conditions means that professionals can no longer ignore their right to sexual expression. After all it’s just a normal part of growing up and being an adult.
“I hope this new guide will give professionals the confidence to be able to talk to young people about their sexuality and that this will in turn empower young people to have relationships and have a good sex life if that is what they want.”
The guide can be downloaded from the Open University website.