Role of the social care worker in interventions into unacceptable sexual behaviour in people who have a learning disability
De Santos, Marilyn Webb
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This thesis concerns the role of the Social Care Worker in interventions into unacceptable sexual behaviour in people who have a learning disability. It takes as point of departure ways in which support organisations and individual members of staff become aware that a service user’s sexual behaviour needs to be addressed. This raises issues about the service user’s human rights, confidentiality, and the concept of what it is to be ‘professional’ which can affect information sharing between support organisations and also between fellow support workers. In the case of the latter this relates to the workers status within the organisation, relations of power/knowledge which also has implications for the status of these workers as ‘professionals’. The thesis goes on to determine the support workers’ perceptions of what Bourdieu has termed, their ‘field’. That is to say, those behaviours they feel they can address without consulting health professionals. In addition to this, criteria used to decide when it is appropriate to consult health professionals is also described which thus demarcates their ‘field’ as perceived by the social care workers. The subsequent roles of the SCW whether working with or without input of health professionals is then discussed in terms of the individual worker’s ‘proximity’ or working relationship with the service user in question, and also their status within the support organisation. Findings suggest that some front-line workers who can claim closer ‘proximity’ to the service user may not have the same level of information about the behaviour as their managers who work off-site and do not have their direct care. Consideration is then given to accounts of situations in which input from health professionals is sought but is not forthcoming leaving SCWs and their organisations to deal with the behaviour in-house. Some of these such as sexual assault and rape are thus being treated in the community when otherwise the individuals concerned would be treated in locked NHS wards. Thus a new ‘field’ emerges requiring of the SCW a level of responsibility and skill that goes unacknowledged. The thesis ends by considering the feelings of workers involved in interventions into unacceptable sexual behaviour and concludes with recommendations on the education and support these workers require. Acknowledgement of the work they do and re-assessment of their status as workers is also recommended.