1. Policy Statement
Hull City Council recognises that everyone has the right to pursue meaningful relationships and that every adult over the age of 16 has the right to enter into sexual relationships and to express their sexuality within the law and wider societal norms. Sexual relationships include those which are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transsexual and case law has established that people who have impaired mental capacity have the same rights as anyone else, provided they have the capacity to consent to sexual acts.
However, people also have the right to be protected from abuse, and this must be balanced against their right to pursue meaningful relationships. This balance places boundaries around relationships which must be observed. Examples of such boundaries include, but are not limited to:
- The right to pursue a relationship with a particular person but not to harass that person or impinge upon their right to privacy;
- The right to masturbate in private but not in public;
- The right to have sexual relations with other consenting adults but not with adults who do not consent, cannot consent or are children under the age of 16;
- The right to watch or view legal pornography but not to force or allow others who do not or cannot consent to watch it.
2. Guiding Principles
Hull City Council is committed to ensuring that adults who receive a social care service are supported to exercise their right to develop and maintain intimate personal and/or sexual relationships with other consenting adults including those which are developing or seem to be casual in nature.
Hull City Council recognises that many adults receiving social care services will have had sexual relationships in the past while others may not have had the opportunity or the support to do so. Some people will not have the capacity to consent to a sexual relationship, but case law has established that most people do have the capacity to consent even if they lack Capacity in other areas. A person has capacity if they:
- Understand the relevant information, i.e. what will happen, who the person to whom they are giving consent is;
- Can retain this information for long enough to make the decision;
- Can weigh up the information to inform their decision making;
- Can communicate their decision.
Consent has to be clearly given, either verbally or non-verbally. Passive compliance is not consent. If a person does not know what will happen, or believes their prospective partner is someone else (e.g. a person with a memory impairment believes a stranger or fellow resident is their husband of many years) then they do not have the capacity to consent. If force, threats, blackmail or any other form of compulsion has been used, then consent has not been given within the meaning of the law.
Hull City Council requires all staff to exercise its legal responsibility to make sure that sexual expression is within the law and does not devalue, stigmatise, exploit or abuse individuals.
Hull City Council recognises that all adults, including those in receipt of a social care service have the right to:
- Be respected as an individual;
- Have their right to privacy and dignity respected;
- Take part in decisions which affect or may affect their lifestyle;
- Have opportunities to love and be loved and to pursue meaningful relationships, including sexual ones;
- Marry or establish a civil partnership;
- Have access to humane and dignified environments in which to pursue their relationships;
- To be protected from abuse.
Hull City Council requires staff to be aware that:
- People receiving services may need information, advice and support to exercise their rights, including advice on contraception and the prevention of infection;
- The choice of someone receiving services may conflict with the wishes of significant others in their lives and that sensitivity will be required to help those significant others to see that everyone has the rights outlined above, and the right to exercise those rights.