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Young people with a learning disability are being denied sex-positive RSE

Young people with a learning disability are being denied sex-positive relationships and sex education (RSE)

80% of professionals delivering sex education to young people with a learning disability struggle to find accessible resources
80% are unable to find relatable images
54% cannot access training to help with sex education
36% say that sex education is not prioritised in their school

Sadly, due to societal attitudes and lack of resources, those most likely to miss out are young people with a learning disability.

For our first Sexual Health Week we are working with the learning disability charity, Mencap to shout louder about the needs of young people with disabilities and support professionals delivering RSE.

Richard Lawrence, Project Support Assistant and Co-chair of the Sexuality and Relationship Steering Group at Mencap, said:

“Some people are quick to judge people with a learning disability, like me, when it comes to sex and relationships. People with a learning disability have a right to choose if they would like to be in a relationship, have sex or get married.

“People have judged me for wanting to be in a relationship and have told me that because I have a learning disability I don’t understand what a healthy relationship, consent or safe sex is.”

When Brook Surveyed those delivering RSE to young people with a learning disability, 80% said they struggle to find accessible resources that meet the needs of those they work with. A further 80% find it challenging to find images that reflect the experiences of young people who have a learning disability.


Helen Marshall, Chief Executive at Brook, said:

“The reality is that lots of sexual health messages received by young people who have a learning disability are negative and focus primarily on risks and inappropriate behaviours. These are important aspects but there needs to be a balance. If RSE is accessible, positive and inclusive, it can empower young people to become more independent, explore and develop healthy relationships and help to protect against abuse.”

This is why we are using our first Sexual Health Week to start important conversations about sex and disability, challenging misconceptions and providing support to professionals delivering RSE. We have launched a suite of free downloadable resources on a range of topics including; masturbation, same-sex relationships and pornography. Each topic is accompanied by a handout for young people to take away to continue reinforcing their learnings.

Richard says:

“Back when I was in school, I only got taught the basics, like here is a man and here is a woman. I didn’t learn anything about consent, safe sex or LGBT. It’s a lot harder for people with a learning disability to find out about sex and relationships because accessible information is hidden away. That’s why Mencap is proud to be collaborating with Brook to make a positive difference to the next generation of people with a learning disability.”

You can see all our new resources and learn more about sexual health week here

Read Brook’s position paper on sexual and reproductive health and rights for people with a learning disability.


About Mencap

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want. www.mencap.org.uk.

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap’s Freephone Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (9am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email help@mencap.org.uk.

For media enquiries please contact Brook's press office on 07789 682831 or email press@brook.org.uk

Notes to editors

Brook believes that young people should have access to great sexual health services and wellbeing support.

Brook provides free and confidential sexual health information, contraception, pregnancy testing, advice and counselling, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and education programmes, reaching nearly 235,000 young people nationwide every year.
Read our Strategic Plan 2017-2020 and learn more about the difference we make in our latest Success Report.