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Due to changes in the law about how care services operate, the council has put together a plan to help ensure vulnerable adults have safe relationships and friendships.
The plan includes specific rules which have been checked by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which ensure adult social care services are offering the best possible service to users.
Who is the plan for?
The safe relationships and friendships plan applies to:
- Users of adult social care services
- Their families
- Adult social care staff.
What does the plan include?
The plan includes rules which:
- Make sure all staff and carers abide by the law
- Ensure everyone working in the service area has the appropriate skills to help users of the service to keep in touch with their family and friends, along with the ability to help vulnerable adults make new friends and relationships.
Although the law states that individuals can be friends with whoever they would like, it also states that adult social care services need to keep people safe from abuse (Sexual Offences Act 2003).
The council's plan protects the rights of adults with a learning disability or mental health problem to ensure they have the same rights as anyone else to have a relationship but also works to protect people by:
- Keep those safe who are at risk of sexual abuse
- Preventing individuals from being bullied or manipulated into doing things.
The plan does not allow a carer to have sex with a learning disability or mental health problem unless they were married or in a relationship before one of them became a carer.
What about people who cannot make their own decisions?
If a person with learning disabilities or mental health problems cannot make their own decisions about sex, the law states that careers must not:
- Touch the service user in a sexual manner
- Force the service user to take part in a sexual act
- Take part in a sexual act if the service user is watching
- Make a service user watch others taking part in a sexual act, this includes books and videos
- Bully or trick a service user into doing any of the above.
The above points are still valid whether or not the service user has given consent or said yes.
What does this mean for carers and vulnerable adults?
The council is aware that some carers and service users will be concerned about some areas of the Sexual Offences Act. However training is available to carers so they can follow the guidelines correctly and help people have safe relationships. Some service users will be asked to write a plan to say how they will keep in touch with their family and friend and have other friendships and relationships. Key workers will make sure this is done.
What happens if a carer/member of adult social team is concerned about a relationship?
If a carer or member of the adult social care team is concerned about a relationship a service user has with someone the plan states they should speak to the individual and explain why they are worried. The council has a duty to protect vulnerable adults from abuse, however, people should remain aware that the service user has a right to have relationships of their own choice.