Proposals for tougher sexual offences laws could make it impossible
for severely disabled people who rely on touch to communicate to
receive sex education.
Campaign groups and some MPs are trying to amend the Sexual
Offences Bill to enable deaf-blind people with mental health or
learning difficulties to be given practical education on sexual
The bill, which is at the report stage in the House of Commons,
will make it illegal – with the threat of long prison terms – for a
care worker to touch any vulnerable or disabled person in a sexual
Sue Brown, head of campaigns and public policy at charity Sense,
supports the bill’s aims to increase protection for vulnerable
people. But she added that, in practice, deaf-blind people with
mental health problems or learning difficulties injure themselves
when masturbating and need to be shown what to do.
“This is a small number of people that rely on touch to communicate
and this is the only way of delivering sexual education to them,”
An amendment by Liberal Democrat MP Sandra Gidley that would allow
this practice to be exempt from the bill was rejected by the
government. Brown hopes a second amendment will be passed as long
as safeguards – such as ensuring it is supervised and discussed at
case conferences – are enforced.
She said: “If the amendment isn’t passed there will be people who
have a clear need that we won’t be able to meet. It will put care
workers in a difficult position.”