Ask the Care Specialists

Welcome to our 'Ask the Care Specialists', your one-stop portal for social care-related questions. Our team of specialists will try to answer as many of your Social Care questions as possible.

Is it acceptable for two young people in a supported living service to have a relationship?

Is it acceptable for two young people in a supported living service to have a relationship?


Dear A

Imagine for one minute if you can someone who is not your parent, not a family member or someone you have only known for a short period of time, suddenly telling you that the person you have fallen madly in love with is against the rules. NO you can’t see them, NO they can't stay over, NO you can't stay out late, very quickly all you will hear is NO NO NO. Being in a loving relationship we as individuals take for granted but as you probably know it's actually a Human Right.


Sadly barriers to relationships in Supported living is a way of life for many. Reasons such as Single beds, Security, Visitors, Restrictive tenancy agreements. But in my view the biggest barrier individuals face comes from those who deliver the “SUPPORT” our personal opinions / bias about the individual we support understanding and their abilities. Our built in ability to display hidden paternalistic practices and ignore our Person Centred principles.


Wouldn't it be great if we as supporters remembered our misspent youth and how by exploring our sexuality we learnt to make choices. We made unwise decisions, If we were lucky made a great one and sailed off into the sunset.


So why is it then, that we believe in not allowing those we support to have these same experiences. Instead of saying “NO” our task should be on the “HOW” and using the frameworks in place to make this work. Dare I say it again MCA Principle 3, a person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision, merely because they make an unwise decision. How many of us have been there. How many of us on a night out knew that they had drunk too much but hey one more wont hurt. It's the same principle we know it’s unwise but we do it anyway.


So ask yourself the question deep down. Why if it’s ok for you is it not ok for others you support. If these individuals lived in our community independently without our input would we ask the same questions. We by our role definition are enablers, It is our role to support those we support to express their sexuality and individuality. This is what makes each of us unique.

Yes I’m sure we are all very aware it's our duty to protect from harm which is why we have systems and processes in place to help us make things happen safely for the enrichment in the lives of those we support. Frameworks in place to support individuals to have a life that delivers all of that we experience. Capacity Assessments, Learning and Support from Learning Disability Nurses and community teams, Social Workers and best interest decisions. Advocacy services.

So in answer to the question “Is it acceptable for two young people in a supported living service to have a relationship” Yes Yes Yes.

Taking the time to get the support right is very much the key. But the best advice I can give is sometimes it’s not the individual at the centre but us as enablers that need the training, advice and support

Barry Price

Specialist in Adults with Learning Disabilities and Complex Needs

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