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CANCELLED Disability, Sexuality and Relationships – Supporting Service Users to Make Choices

  • Aras Moyola, NUI Galway
  • 9.30 - 4.00
  • 29 May 2017

Cancelled due to insufficient numbers

Refunds will be issued in the week starting 22nd May. Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused but we simply did not have sufficient numbers to proceed with the conference. 


Price includes refreshments and a light lunch. 

The conference has been jointly organised by Social Care Ireland and the Irish Association of Social Workers.


Background and Context
Knowing how best to vindicate the rights of people with disabilities in relation to sexuality and reproductive health can be a complex matter for many Health and Social Care Professions (HSCP). Domestic and international policy and legislation conflicts while professionals themselves share a wide variety of ethical perspectives in relation to sexuality and reproductive rights. For example, a survey by the National Disability Authority in 2011 found that just 51% of the Irish public believe that people with intellectual disabilities are entitled to have sexual relationships while 38% thought people with intellectual disabilities had a right to have children. The right of all people to sexuality and to sexual and reproductive health is recognised in a range of international conventions and treaties. However, domestic legislation in this area takes a different and conflicting approach, emphasising the protection of people with disabilities and placing severe limits on the kinds of intimate relationships people with intellectual disabilities can have. In addition, many professionals are in the process of familiarising themselves with the HSE Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse Policy and Procedures. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 will further impact on this area bringing with it new responsibilities for many HSCPs.


Conference programme:

9.30 – 10am: Registration and Welcome

10am – 11am: Sexuality and Intellectual Disability – John Ryan, Principal Social Worker, KARE

John will explore the past, present and the possible future in relation to people with an intellectual disability having a meaningful intimate relationship. John will explore supports and provision of information and education regarding relationships and sexuality. He will also highlight and discuss some of the potential conflicts that service providers may experience trying to balance the need for expression with the need to protect vulnerable service users. He will share how his organisation KARE have over the years both developed policy and practice in this area.

11am – 11.50am: Pauline Sheils, Clinical Nurse Specialist in sexuality and disability, National Rehabilitation Hospital

Pauline will explore the use of the PLISSIT Model, a four step framework for engaging with and discussing sexual health issues and well-being with service users.

11.50 – 12.10: Tea/Coffee break

12.10- 1pm: Jim Gogarty, Gogarty Consultancy

Jim will explore how beliefs and perceptions of sexuality and disability influence practice and policy with regard to service delivery for people with disability.

1pm – 1.45pm Lunch

1.45-2.15pm: Short Video and discussion

2.15 – 3.45pm: Concurrent Workshops

Workshop 1


Workshop 2

Building Capacity to Choose – Capacity, Consent and Sexual Relationships 

Facilitator: Josephine Mcloughlin
This 90 minute workshop will focus on building decision making capacity with regard to sexuality and intimate relationships. Participants will examine a proposed method called the E.N.A.B.L.E. Model. This is a tool that is used to support an individual as they make choices and decisions about their sexuality and intimate relationships. The model ensures that the information and support provided is governed not by the beliefs and values of any one individual or organization but by a set of parameters that objectively covers every aspect of the decision making progress. The model incorporates the principles and values of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the proposed Irish legal context and information and strategies to use when building decision making capacity.
Josephine is the founder of and is a qualified Social Care Leader with over 20 years’ experience in the childcare and disability sector. In 2015 Josephine completed an LL.M (Master of Law) in International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy achieving first class honours and in addition was awarded the Centre of Disability Law and Policy gold medal for excellence.

Workshop 3

Sexuality and Intellectual Disability 

Facilitator: John Ryan

This workshop will explore service provider’s role in supporting education programmes and provision of information regarding relationships and sexuality for service users. The workshop will allow discussion of potential conflicts which may arise between achieving a balance for expression of needs and responsibility with regard to protection of vulnerable adults.

John studied at the University of Greenwich and completed his professional training in Social Work Dip SW (CQSW) along with a Dip in Higher Education. He specialised in the area of Mental Health, Disability and Child Protection, and worked in London for 6 years. He has also completed a post graduate course in Child Protection and Welfare in Trinity College. He has continued his education through his involvement in a special interest group Social Worker in Disability (SWID) in the Irish Association of Social Work and is part of a group that is looking at Continuous Professional Development for Social Work. He also has guest lecturered for the Open Training College, Trinity College and UCD and is a practice Tutor for UCD for Social Work training. Further to this John is also a tutor for the Irish Sports Council in Child Protection and Welfare. He has also developed best practice policies on Protection of Vulnerable Adults and been part of the Special Olympics Code of Ethics policy development committee and had published articles on Emigration as a contributory factor to Mental Health, and on Protection of Vulnerable Adults.

3.45pm-4pm: Final Q&A and Close.


Conference Aims

A key aim of the conference is to provide HSCPs with the opportunity to consider how organisations can balance the rights and needs of service users with regard to relationships and sexuality and to clarify the policy and legislative contexts for HSCPs and service users with disabilities.

The conference aims to provide participants with

  • An increased understanding of needs of the service user group, the needs of their families, and how best to respond to same; increased awareness of the supports available to professions and services to do this work;increased knowledge of how organisational policies and procedures can support the provision of safe and effective services;
  • Information as to how HSCPs can work to reduce the risk of people with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual disabilities, experiencing sexual abuse and/or exploitation;
  • An understanding of how organisational policies and staff training support consistency of approach among HSCPs in residential, community and other service settings.


  • Registration is not currently open