My Dissertation

Well here’s my dissertation in all it’s glory.

Some things to note:

  • It’s already been submitted, marked and I’ve qualified (2:1 Hons) so please don’t bother pointing out spelling or grammar mistakes.
  • It is not a full dissertation as the course I was on was considered part-time. As such no research was carried out other than be reading literature. A research proposal was submitted as part of this dissertation.
  • Things have moved forward since this dissertation in so much as I’m writing, with the help of others, a training course for staff.

You can read it below or download a copy here:

 


 

Are social care staff trained to support people with an intellectual disability who wish to identify as a member of the LGBTI+ community?

Rob Partridge

A Dissertation submitted to the School of Health Sciences,
University of Galway

As part requirement for the degree of BA (Hons.) Social Care of the University of Galway, Ireland.

July 2023

Supervisor: Prof. Saoirse Nic Gabhainn

 


Abstract

Research Question: Are social care staff trained to support a person with intellectual disabilities who presents with a same-sex attraction and considers themselves a member of the LGBTI+ community?

Aim: To discover what training is available for social care staff supporting people with an intellectual disability (ID) who wish to explore a samesex relationship or express their LGBTI+ sexuality. To look at the training and question its content and accuracy and to discover whether training could assist social care staff to empower the people they support.

Method: Through looking at current research and literature this dissertation looked at the needs of the LGBTI+ individual who also has an ID diagnosis and explored the lack of support for these individuals and the lack of training for staff. It looked at some of the training available in the Republic of Ireland and the content of that training while also exploring what a lack of training means for the people they support.

Results: There is evidence that there is a lack of training in this area and that such training could assist social care staff in promoting an inclusive environment and safe space for individuals who may seek to express their LGBTI+ identity or explore same-sex relationships. From the research and literature there is also clear evidence that there is a lack of statistics in these areas due the very nature of the subject.

Key Words: Intellectual disabilities (ID), LGBTI+, training, sexuality, same-sex relationships, equality, inclusion, social care


Acknowledgements

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all those who have supported and contributed to the completion of this project. Without their invaluable assistance, guidance, and encouragement, this endeavour would not have been possible.

First and foremost, I am immensely thankful to my supervisor, Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, for their unwavering support and mentorship throughout this journey. I’m grateful for their patience.

I am indebted to my professors, lecturers and instructors of the University of Galway, whose dedication to teaching and sharing knowledge has been instrumental in my academic growth. Their passion and commitment to their respective fields have inspired me to explore new avenues and challenge myself intellectually.

I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to my friends and classmates, particularly Joanne and Yvonne, who provided continuous motivation, constructive discussions, and moral support. Their companionship and camaraderie have made this experience enjoyable and memorable.

I am grateful to the staff and administrators of the University of Galway for providing a conducive environment for learning and research. Their efforts behind the scenes have contributed significantly to my education and facilitated the smooth execution of this project.

Special thanks to my manager, Michael, and my work colleagues who gave me the time I needed to complete the course, acted as advisors when I needed it and gave me valuable support and encouragement throughout.

I am indebted to Christophe Vaillant who took the time assist me and, amongst many other things, pointed out many missing commas and the occasional unnecessary ones. His kindness, time and dedication was inspirational.

Lastly, but most importantly, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my family. Their unconditional love, support, and belief in me have been a constant source of strength and motivation. Their encouragement has played an immeasurable role in my academic pursuits. My parents, Roger & Sandra, who constantly encouraged me to do well even when they had no idea what I was talking about, and to my husband, Bradley, who read everything – literally everything – at least twice if not more. He became my editor-in-chief and my rock when I struggled.

To all those mentioned above and to anyone else who has played a part, no matter how big or small, in shaping this work, I extend my deepest appreciation. Your involvement and encouragement have made this achievement possible, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Thank you.

Rob Partridge


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Introduction and Background
Context ….. 1
Scope and Boundary ….. 3
Research Question ….. 4
Objectives ….. 4
Conclusion …. 4

Chapter 2 – LGBTI+ Identity and ID, by the numbers.
Introduction ….. 5
Lack of Statistics ….. 5
Coming Out ….. 5
Stigma and Discrimination ….. 6
Education ….. 6
Interpersonal Relationships ….. 7
Conclusion ….. 8

Chapter Three – Training Availability
Introduction ….. 9
HIQA ….. 9
HSELand ….. 10
GOSHH ….. 11
HSE Rainbow Badge Scheme ….. 11
Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) ….. 11
Other Avenues for Training, or lack thereof ….. 12
Conclusion ….. 13

Chapter Four – Effective Training for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion
Introduction ….. 15
Requirements for Training ….. 15
Conclusion ….. 19

Chapter Five – Discussion
Introduction ….. 20
Life Course Theory ….. 20
Mandatory Training ….. 22
Voluntary Training ….. 23
Is training needed at all? ….. 24
Conclusion ….. 25

Chapter Six – Research Proposal
Introduction ….. 27
Background ….. 27
Research Objective ….. 27
Methodology  ….. 28
Research Design ….. 28
Participant Selection ….. 28
Data Collection ….. 28
Confidentiality ….. 30
Data Analysis ….. 30
Ethical Considerations ….. 31
Anticipated Outcomes and Impact ….. 31
Improved Knowledge and Competence of Care Staff ….. 31
Promotion of Inclusive Practices ……32
Enhanced Well-being and Quality of Life ….. 32
Creating Supportive Networks and Partnerships ….. 32
Conclusion ….. 33
References ….. 35


Chapter 1 – Introduction and Background

The LGBTI+ community in Ireland has gone through massive changes in the last thirty years. The decriminalisation of homosexuality, the introduction of legally-recognised same-sex marriages and the enactment of adoption rights are just a few of the changes that have taken place in Ireland to improve the lives of LGBTI+ people living here. Although a different subsection of society, the lives of people with an intellectual disability (ID) have also gone through positive changes with the introduction of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act (2015) being one of the most recent. As society is beginning to be more accepting of the LGBTI+ community, this research aims to explore how social care staff are trained to support a person with an ID who presents as a member of the LGBTI+ community or who shows a desire to question and explore their sexuality.

Context

‘Coming-out’ is a process and not just a one-off event. Coming out, for the LGBTI+ community being the process of acknowledging their sexuality minority status. It can also refer to the process of accepting and acknowledging one’s gender identity that may be different to the one assigned at birth.

Often starting in childhood, it can take years for a person to understand and acknowledge what they are going through and why they feel different to the others around them. In an ideal world, when making a disclosure to a trusted person, the LGBTI+ person is accepted as well as accepting themselves and who they are (Martin, 1991). When a person makes a disclosure about their sexuality, it is important to respond in the right way. Saying things like “we already knew” or “it doesn’t matter,” can have huge implications for the mental health of an LGBTI+ person (Corrigan & Matthews, 2003). To them, it does matter. They may have spent a good portion of their life thinking they have kept their sexuality a secret, and to be told those around them already knew can negatively impact them. It can also be detrimental to question their decision to disclose or, their history as an LGBTI+ person (Tu & Lowe, 2022). There can be various sources of supports found online and in community groups for families and friends to access through such organisations as LGBT Ireland, a national charity who support the LGBTI+ community, as well as local groups such as Outcomers, based in Dundalk and Outwest, based in the west of Ireland (LGBT Ireland, 2021).

Realising and accepting their sexuality can be a difficult experience for LGBTI+ people and it may be made even more difficult when the person has an ID. Research has shown that people with an ID often face bigotry and intolerance in their day-to-day lives that make them feel like outsiders and hinders their participation in society, leading to social exclusion (Mencap, 1999). This fact, coupled with the discrimination sometimes felt by the LGBTI+ community and it can make for a very unhappy life for and LGBTI+ person with an ID and greatly affect their mental health (Atherton et al., 2016).

To overcome this this discrimination and attempt to live as their true selves, a person may turn to family or friends for support, or if in the care system, may turn to a support worker. It is possible that the families and friends may not agree with their lifestyle, consider it a choice, or may not assist in their right to express their sexuality or explore same-sex relationships (Abbott & Burns, 2007).  Previous research done by Löfgren-Mårtenson in 2009 suggests that young people with an ID who identify as LGBTI+ are an unseen group of people and how they explore and express their sexuality very much depends on who they have around them and the environment they are in (Löfgren-Mårtenson, 2009).

The results of the research done by Löfgren-Mårtenson, along with research done by Burns & Abbott (2007) would suggest that training for support staff is essential. When it comes to talking about sexual relationships, staff who support people with an ID do not regularly have conversations of this topic with the people they support and the only time it comes up is when there is an problem (Abbott & Burns, 2007). Yet, rather than deal with the situation by discussing with the person being supported, other solutions are typically explored, such as removing the opportunities to explore these feelings (Abbott & Burns, 2007). In the Abbott & Burns (2007) research, staff reported they did not feel they had appropriate training to carry out these types of conversations. There is also often the concern around how parents, family and other support workers might react (Abbott & Burns, 2007). LGBTI+ people share the anxiety of expressing their sexuality and gender identity, whether they have an ID or not.

Training for staff is essential to help alleviate the anxiety for people with an ID around expressing their sexuality and assist a person with an ID go through the discovery process of exploring their sexuality and/or gender identity. Even staff who identify as LGBTI+ should consider seeking training as, although they themselves may be comfortable with expressing their sexuality and identifying as LGBTI+, they may not fully comprehend what is needed to support a person with an ID in their coming-out process. Consideration needs to be taken, as the person may want to explore their sexual identity but, in the end, confirm they are heterosexual. Training would give the social care worker the tools they need to assist the person they are supporting. Access to sexual education programmes written for people with an ID has increased, although those designed for education in schools with non-disabled people appear to be greater in number (Whitehouse & McCabe, 1997).  Research shows that teachers and programme coordinators still have negative feelings around giving training around sexuality (Wolfe, 1997).

Training support staff in even just the basic information around being LGBTI+ could assist staff in supporting a person with an ID when they wish to make a disclosure about their sexuality or explore same-sex relationships. With the introduction of HSELand in 2007, HSE staff have access to a myriad of different training modules twenty-four hours a day. As social care staff can often work irregular hours, this unlimited access is perfect for those who might not be able to attend in-person training, and allows them to learn at a speed that is suitable for them (McHugh et al., 2012). Training in all aspects of LGBTI+ life and how to support a person with an ID during their coming out process available on HSELand could provide access for HSE staff.

Scope and Boundary

This research will explore the training available to social care staff, and the quality of that training when supporting a person with an ID who presents as a member of the LGBTI+ community and expresses the desire to be part of, explore or identify with, a same-sex relationship.

When talking about the LGBTI+ community, whether referring to lesbians, gay men or anyone under that umbrella, the acronym LGBTI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) will be used. This was chosen as it is the acronym used by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner (UN, 2022). The research will not focus on transgender or intersex people (the T and I of LGBTI+) as those would be considered under the gender demographic and not a sexuality. If someone identifies as transgender or intersex there are clear and defined healthcare paths for them to follow and although social care may be involved, healthcare would be the main avenue of care. The research will focus on adults with an intellectual disability. At present, a person with an ID is understood as a condition where individuals experience notable restrictions in their intellectual abilities and adaptive skills, which become evident during their developmental years (Schalock, 2011). An adult will be deemed as a person over the age of seventeen as this is the current age of consent for sexual activity in Ireland (“Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act,” 2006). This research will look at literature about the LGBTI+ community around training for social care staff outside of Ireland but its focus will be on what is available on the island of Ireland.

Research Question

Are social care staff trained to support a person with intellectual disabilities who presents with a same-sex attraction and considers themselves a member of the LGBTI+ community?

Objectives

  1. To investigate the prevalence of same-sex attraction amongst individuals with an intellectual disability.
  2. To explore training for social care staff on same-sex attraction in people with an intellectual disability.
  3. To examine what is needed in any LGBTI+ training for care staff working with individualswith an intellectual disability who express a same-sex attraction.

Conclusion

There are many similarities in discrimination between the LGBTI+ community and people with an ID and some of this intolerance comes from a lack of education about both communities. This also stems from negative images portrayed in the mainstream media and on social media, as well as feelings and opinions passed down through family units. The stigma surrounding people with an intellectual disability, often using old-fashioned and outdated terms such as ‘feeble-minded’ or ‘simple’, impacts their social interactions and can lead them to exclude themselves socially. Add to this the desire to explore a same-sex relationship, when such things are also stigmatised by some sections of society, and a person with an ID could suffer with severe mental health issues. Current research shows there is some training available about being LGBTI+ with an intellectual disability, but its suitability remains unclear.

 

Chapter 2 – LGBTI+ Identity and ID, by the numbers.

Introduction

There are no definitive statistics on the number of people who identify as LGBTI+ and have an ID but research has taken place that does give some indications, although the conclusions are not consistent. One piece of research collected data from over 85,00 people between 2003 and 2009 by Fredriksen-Goldsen et al suggests adults (people over the age of 18) living with a disability, including an ID, who also identify as a member of the LGB community is up to 2.8% higher than the heterosexual community (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2012). Research conducted by Bedard et al. in 2010 in Surrey, Canada, involved asking 32 people with an ID about their sexuality. The results showed that 87.1% of respondents identified as heterosexual, 9.7% identified as bisexual or questioning and only 3.2% of respondents identified as homosexual (Bedard et al., 2010). This appears to be reflective of the general population (Gates, 2011).

Lack of Statistics

Much of the information available about the numbers of people with an ID who also identify as LGBTI+ is conjecture. In research done by Noonan & Gomez in Australia in 2011 they found that 0.064% of the population (approximately 13,400 people) identify as LGBTI+ and have an ID (Noonan & Taylor Gomez, 2011). The findings make it clear that this is just an “estimation” as there was no way, in 2011, to determine the accurate figures of people with an ID who also identify as LGBTI+ or are exploring their sexuality (Noonan & Taylor Gomez, 2011).

People with an ID are often falsely considered asexual (meaning they experience little or no sexual attraction to others). This is potentially because when care workers talk to the people they support they do not very often discuss sexuality. Another common misconception is that when a person with ID does express their sexuality they are automatically assumed to be heterosexual (Thompson et al., 2001).

Coming Out

A possible reason for this lack of information could be due to people not ‘coming out.’ Coming out being the term used by some LGBTI+ people to describe the process of openly acknowledging and accepting one’s sexuality or gender identity, choosing not to conceal it any longer (Corrigan et al., 2009). If people are not comfortable making a disclosure, then it is possible that they will not take part in a survey about LGBTI+ people or, if they do take part, they may choose to identify as heterosexual as a way of keeping their sexual identity a secret. A disclosure can be difficult at the best of times, but if a person does not understand the emotions and feelings they are experiencing or how to communicate these effectively, making a disclosure can become even more difficult.

LGBTI+ individuals with an ID are entitled to the same freedom of sexual expression as everyone else. When support workers are unaware of how to discuss sexuality with the person with ID, this essential right may be compromised (Walsh, 2010).

Stigma and Discrimination

An LGBTI+ individual who also has an ID may be discriminated against because of their disability as well as because of their sexual identity (McCann et al., 2016); this is often referred to as ‘layered stigma.’ This stigmatisation can affect their mental health (Bennett, 2002). Research shows that LGBTI+ people are more likely to face mental health issues and endure psychological distress than heterosexual people in the overall community (King et al., 2008). This, coupled with the individual having an ID and potentially not understanding why they are feeling the way they are, and their mental health could suffer greatly. Although there is increasing research exposing this likelihood of poor mental health, and that community-based care can provide support (G. Medley et al., 2016; Moagi et al., 2021). LGBTI+ people with an ID still suffer discrimination and social exclusion and this also has a negative effect on their health (World Health Organization, 2013).

Education

Although there are no definite numbers for how many people with an ID also identify as a member of the LGBTI+ community, there is evidence that their needs and their access to services is increasing and developing (McCann et al., 2016). In the review carried out by McCann et al, they looked at 14 different studies with one study stating, “All participants found the group helpful and liked that it was service-user led, supportive and empowering,” (Withers et al., 2001). As such, it would appear to be imperative to gain evidence of how many people with an ID either identify as LGBTI+ or have questioned their sexuality. Having this evidence has the potential to show how better, more detailed training programme could be developed to assist social care staff in supporting a person with an ID as they explore their sexuality. The benefit of staff awareness of the issues around making a disclosure and the desire to explore a same-sex relationship could lead to improved mental and physical health for the person being supported.

People with ID frequently have a vague, conflicting, and poor understanding of sexuality and sexual activity in general. Occasionally they are discouraged from, and punished for, attempting to express themselves sexually and are not given enough information about their own bodies and sexuality. This lack of awareness can also lead to sexual abuse (Brkić-Jovanović et al., 2021).

In their research, Baines et al. suggest that there is a general concern around being LGBTI+ with an ID and being in danger of abuse, even though, when discussing the sexual activity and sexual health of a person with ID, there is no significant data on the subject. They also found that many young people, in the general population, will have experience of sexual activity by the time they are 20 years old and approximately 50% of the time this would have been unsafe sex (Baines et al., 2018).

A person not having someone to talk to who understands what they are going through can lead to very negative effects, such as suicidal ideations and depression. In research done by Tallentire et al. in 2020, they found one respondent who identifies as a member of the LGBTI+ community and has an ID made a disclosure of self-harm through cutting themselves as the pain from the inflicted wound was easier to deal with than the pain of making a disclosure around their sexuality (Tallentire et al., 2020).

Interpersonal Relationships

As previously stated, staff members can feel uncomfortable discussing the sexuality of a person being supported either with that person or with other staff, but a person with an ID who is a member of the LGBTI+ community has a right to a relationship, sexual or not.  Whether it is work or home, with a colleague or family member, being aware of sexuality and its impact as a key component to ensuring healthy relationships grow and are preserved (Collins & Miller, 1994). In fact, ‘out’ gay men often appear happier in their working life than straight men (Ellis, 1996), and a person with an ID, gay or straight, has a right to seeking fulfilling employment should they choose to.

Conclusion

The issue of establishing accurate statistics regarding the number of individuals with an ID who identify as LGBTI+ remains a complex and evolving area of research. While various studies have attempted to shed light on this topic, the results often present conflicting evidence, leading to uncertainty and a lack of consensus.

For instance, recent sources like Disabled World in 2022 may present contrasting findings compared to earlier studies conducted by Beddard et al. in 2010 or McCann in 2016. These disparities highlight the challenges inherent in gathering accurate data, with some sources suggesting that as many as 36% of people with an ID identify as LGBTI+, while others claim that the number is fewer than 2%.

Given the discrepancies in the existing research, it becomes evident that a more in-depth and comprehensive study is necessary to establish more reliable figures. Such a study would require a nuanced approach that encourages open and honest conversations about sexuality and sexual identity. Care staff must cultivate a comfortable and inclusive environment where individuals with an ID feel safe discussing these personal aspects of their lives.

Moreover, open conversations should extend beyond interactions with the individuals themselves. Staff members should also engage in dialogue with their colleagues to promote a supportive atmosphere centred around the individuals they support. These discussions can serve as opportunities for knowledge exchange, sharing best practices, and enhancing the overall understanding of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities within the context of intellectual disabilities.

Embracing open conversations and creating a culture of acceptance and inclusion, care staff can contribute to a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the intersection between intellectual disability and LGBTI+ identity. This, in turn, can inform future research efforts and contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the experiences and needs of individuals with an ID who identify as LGBTI+.

 

Chapter Three – Training Availability

Introduction

Individuals with an ID often face significant obstacles in pursuing love and intimate relationships. Factors such as cautious approaches adopted by healthcare and social service professionals can impede the formation of such connections, leading to detrimental impacts on the self-worth, sense of belonging, and overall mental well-being of individuals with learning disabilities (Robinson et al., 2020).

Nonetheless, both historical and contemporary evidence highlights the presence of unfavourable attitudes and social stigma towards individuals with learning disabilities who identify as LGBTI+. This can be observed through instances where certain services inadequately address their specific needs, while many other services maintain a off-limits approach towards discussions related to sexual orientation and sexuality (Wilkinson et al., 2015).

Training would go some way towards solving this issue as it would give staff a clearer understand of the issues surrounding the exploration of same-sex relationships and topics concerning members of the LGBTI+ community (Margolies & Brown, 2019).

HIQA

Social care and support services in Ireland each have policies around staff training and those policies are, in some part, guide, by the standards set down by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). Although they do not determine the content of any training given, the subject does makes up some of their national standards. Standard 7.1.8 discusses training upon recruitment to the organisation and standards 7.3.8, 7.3.9 and 7.3.10 discuss training during on-going employment,. while all of standard 7.4 is centred around training specifically (Health Information and Quality Authority, 2013). HIQA carry out regular inspections of services and staff training is always part of their assessment, although they only concern themselves with mandatory courses. While LGBTI+ training is not mandatory it is advised (HIQA, 2014).

HSELand

HSELand was launched in 2007 by the HSE. It is an internet-based platform developed to aid the education and advancement of professionals employed within the healthcare industry in Ireland and is open to all health professionals in the HSE, voluntary sector and non-governmental organisations. These organisations, in Ireland, include but are not limited to support services like the Brothers of Charity Services Ireland, a HSE funded organisation who support people with disabilities across the country through residential placements, day centres and schools. Social Care Workers and support staff can access this site by logging in with their organisations employment details (McHugh et al., 2012).

Currently on HSELand there are only two courses available to staff under the topic of LGBTI+. The first is a workshop entitled “LGBT+ Awareness Training – Virtual workshop” which is a 3-hour interactive workshop that uses a participatory approach with videos, exercises and reflection. It covers topics such as exploring the coming out experience and the spectrums of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. It includes a session on terminology and ever looks how to be an LGBTI+ ally and how to be inclusive in the workplace. At the time of researching it has no schedule sessions and is unavailable for enrolment (HSELand, 2018b).

The second course is entitled “LGBT+ Awareness and Inclusion: the basics” and is open to all HSE employees, including Tusla. It is also open all the partner organisations with access to HSEland. This course aims give the participant understanding of LGBTI+ identities and some relevant health issues, and also provides tips on how to be more inclusive of LGBTI+ people using their service (HSELand, 2018a). At no point during the course does it consider that the people using the services may also have and ID diagnosis.

In some support services, the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland for example, some training for support staff is mandatory. “Safety, health and welfare in healthcare” and “Manual and people handling training” are two that are mandatory for all staff in the HSE. A manager has the additional requirement of completing “Managing health and safety in the healthcare setting” and “Risk assessment webinar for general occupational safety and health risks.” (Heatlh Service Executive, 2023). These courses are available via the online learning platform HSELand. There are additional courses depending on the workplace environment, including topics like Hand Hygiene, Infection Prevention and Control and Communicating Effectively through Open Disclosure. Throughout all the courses listed for staff in the HSE, there are currently no mandatory or recommended courses for care staff who support person with an ID who also identity as LGBTI+ or those who may wish to explore same-sex relationships (Health Service Executive, 2023).

GOSHH

GOSHH (Gender, Orientation, Sexual Health, HIV), an organisation based in Limerick, Ireland, offer training on various different subjects based around LGBTI+ awareness and some of the issues they may face.

While they do not offer a set syllabus or training schedule they do state on their website that they work with organisations to develop training programmes suited to their needs and this includes supporting people with an ID (GOSHH, 2010).

HSE Rainbow Badge Scheme

In 2021 the Health Service Executive (HSE) introduced the Rainbow Badge Scheme. Staff make a pledge to wear the badge to show they have a knowledge of LGBTI+ issues and can offer support to people who use their service. Organisations who take part in this scheme are required to purchase the badges for their staff but there is no obligation to offer any training to these staff members although it is recommended. There is no mention of supporting people with an intellectual disability and the information for this scheme is found under mental health services on the HSE website (HSE, 2022). While the Rainbow Badge Scheme serves as a symbolic initiative to promote awareness and support for LGBTI+ individuals, it is not a comprehensive training program. Its primary aim is to signify that staff members have knowledge of LGBTI+ issues and are willing to offer support. To ensure the provision of inclusive and informed care, it is recommended that organisations participating in the scheme supplement it with training programs that address the specific needs of LGBTI+ individuals, including those with intellectual disabilities.

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC)

Even though they the IHREC do not offer training in the support of LGBTI+ people with an ID they do list a set of standards that any training should cover. This includes looking at the legislation around equality, facts about LGBTI+ people and importantly the supports required in the workplace (IHREC, 2020). Unfortunately they do not state what those supports should be.

Other Avenues for Training, or lack thereof

While there is little training in the Republic of Ireland for staff supporting people with ID who identify as a member of the LGBTI+ community or wishing to explore same-sex relationships, it appears this is not limited to the Republic. In research done in 2012 by Lafferty et al respondents showed that there were four main areas that were considered barriers to supporting a person with an ID who wishes to explore same-sex relationships. Two of those barriers were a lack of available training and a lack of educational material. The other barriers being cultural and the need to protect vulnerable people (Lafferty et al., 2012).

Research done by Dyer & das Nair (2013) shows that another barrier to this training development is the reluctance of staff to talk about issues around sex and sexuality. For some it can be a difficult subject to approach and this could be due to their own personal beliefs as well as embarrassment around the subject matter (Dyer & das Nair, 2013). An insufficient understanding of the experiences of the LGBTI+ community seems to be a continuing theme throughout much of the research.

A quick search on the internet for available training for care staff supporting people with an ID who wish to explore their sexuality or same-sex relationships (the search term used was: “training for staff working with lgbt people who have an intellectual disability”) returns results that seem to lack the inclusion of the term ‘intellectual disability’ and instead give plenty of options for making the workplace inclusive. This itself could be considered a barrier when in the current society the internet has become the go-to place to look for training in any subject (Wulf, 1996).  An issue that our society is currently grappling with is the widespread accessibility and consumption of misleading information. This phenomenon has the potential to generate detrimental consequences at both individual and societal levels by fostering inaccurate beliefs concerning varying support and care services (Wu & McCormick, 2018).

 

 

Conclusion

Research conducted on this topic has shed light on several factors that contribute to the rarity of training programs specifically focused on supporting individuals who identify as LGBTI+ and have an ID. These factors encompass a wide range of issues, including religious beliefs, lack of awareness, and insufficient integration of training modules.

One significant barrier to providing comprehensive training lies in the diverse religious beliefs held by individuals involved in social care. While many religions advocate for love, compassion, and acceptance, some interpretations may clash with the affirmation of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. This can create reluctance or resistance towards incorporating LGBTI+ inclusive training within religiously affiliated care settings. Addressing these concerns and fostering dialogue between religious institutions and training providers becomes crucial in order to bridge the gap and ensure the provision of inclusive care for LGBTI+ individuals with an ID.

Additionally, the scarcity of training in this area can be attributed to a lack of awareness among care providers and organisations. Many professionals may not fully comprehend the unique challenges and specific support needs faced by LGBTI+ individuals with an ID. The intersectionality of sexual orientation, gender identity, and intellectual disability may not be adequately acknowledged or understood. As a result, training initiatives fail to merge these two subjects effectively. Increasing awareness through research, education, and targeted outreach efforts can help overcome this knowledge gap and promote the development of inclusive training programs that address the specific needs of this population.

Another contributing factor to the rarity of training merging LGBTI+ support and intellectual disability lies in the disconnect between existing training programs. While there are numerous training opportunities available for supporting individuals who identify as LGBTI+ or wish to explore same-sex relationships, and separate professional qualifications for those seeking to support people with an intellectual disability, the integration of these two subjects remains infrequent. The lack of cohesion between these training areas limits the holistic understanding and competence of care providers when it comes to supporting LGBTI+ individuals with an ID. Recognising the importance of bridging this gap, stakeholders and training providers should work collaboratively to develop comprehensive training frameworks that incorporate both aspects, facilitating a more inclusive and well-rounded approach to care provision.

To address these challenges, it is crucial to advocate for the integration and prioritisation of LGBTI+ inclusive training within professional qualifications and continuing education programmes. This includes emphasising the significance of understanding the intersectionality between intellectual disability and sexual orientation or gender identity. By weaving together these essential training components, care providers can develop a comprehensive skill set that enables them to deliver holistic, person-centred care to LGBTI+ individuals with an ID.

Overcoming these barriers requires creating a dialogue, increasing awareness, and promoting collaboration among stakeholders. By addressing these issues head-on and developing comprehensive training initiatives, social care can strive for a more inclusive society where the unique needs and aspirations of LGBTI+ individuals with an ID are fully recognised, supported, and celebrated.

 

Chapter Four – Effective Training for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

Introduction

Providing care and support to individuals with intellectual disabilities who identify as LGBTI+ requires care staff to possess knowledge, sensitivity, and actively practice inclusivity. Comprehensive LGBTI+ awareness training is crucial to ensure that care staff are well-equipped to meet the unique needs of this population. This training could encompass a range of important components that foster understanding, empathy, and effective support for individuals at the intersection of intellectual disability and diverse sexual orientations or gender identities. Research done by Carabez et al. (2015) shows that care staff still lack a basic knowledge of LGBTI+ issues (Carabez et al., 2015).

Requirements for Training

  • Fundamental Concepts and Language

Comprehensive LGBTI+ awareness training should begin with an in-depth exploration of fundamental concepts related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. Through training social care staff could develop a solid understanding of the diversity within the LGBTI+ community, including different sexual orientations and gender identities. These topics have become fluid as LGBTI+ society has developed and grown over the last twenty years and it is now more nuanced than just male and female or lesbian, gay and bisexual (Martin, 1994). Training should cover the terminology associated with those differing sexual orientations and gender identities, including an understanding of pronouns and preferred names. By establishing a foundation of knowledge, care staff can ensure respectful and inclusive communication with individuals they support.

  • Challenges Faced by LGBTI+ Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

To provide effective support, care staff need to be aware of the specific challenges and barriers faced by LGBTI+ individuals with intellectual disabilities. Training should address potential experiences of discrimination, bullying, or social exclusion that individuals may encounter within care settings, as well as broader societal challenges. LGBTI+ people with an ID often struggle with their journey to acceptance and integration (Dinwoodie et al., 2020).

  • Intersectionality and Multiple Identities

Comprehensive LGBTI+ awareness training should emphasise the concept of intersectionality, recognising that individuals may face multiple forms of discrimination based on factors such as disability, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, in addition to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Care staff should explore the complex interactions between these identities and their impact on an individual’s experiences and needs. By addressing intersectionality, care staff can provide inclusive care that recognises and respects the multifaceted nature of an individual’s identity, an identity LGBTI+ community members often keep to themselves for fear of bullying and discrimination (Brotman et al., 2002). While LGBTI+ people face discrimination for their sexuality, LGBTI+ people with an ID also face the discrimination of their disability. This can make it more difficult for an LGBTI+ person with an ID to create a positive image of themselves and lead to negative thoughts and feelings – potentially, the thoughts of suicide (Beane, 1981). Through training to staff in the understanding of this ‘secret identity’ social care staff can make this transition and exploration of sexuality a simpler and more compassionate process.

  • Legal Rights and Policies

Training should provide care staff with a comprehensive understanding of the legal rights and protections afforded to LGBTI+ individuals. The Civil Partnership Act (2010) allowed for same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership (“Civil Partnership Act,” 2010) and since 2015 same-sex marriage has been a legal right of same-sex couples (“Marriage act,” 2015). The laws that include the LGBTI+ community are constantly changing as society changes and accepts the existence of the community (Neary, 2016) so this section of training should cover relevant laws regarding anti-discrimination, equal access to healthcare, and the right to self-expression. Care staff should be familiar with policies and guidelines related to LGBTI+ inclusion within care settings. By equipping care staff with knowledge of legal frameworks, they can protect and advocate for the rights of LGBTI+ individuals with intellectual disabilities, ensuring they receive equal treatment and support and empowering them to live equal lives (Adams, 2017).

  • Building Inclusive Environments

Creating inclusive environments is a fundamental aspect of LGBTI+ awareness training. Care staff should learn practical strategies for promoting inclusivity, respect, and support within care settings. This includes addressing bias and stereotypes, fostering open and non-judgmental communication, and creating opportunities for LGBTI+ individuals to express their identities freely (Klein & Nakhai, 2016). Training should emphasise the importance of creating safe spaces that celebrate diversity and provide support for all individuals, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity (Coolhart & Brown, 2017).

  • Mental Health and Well-being

Comprehensive LGBTI+ awareness training should also incorporate a focus on mental health and well-being. Care staff should be educated on the unique mental health challenges faced by LGBTI+ individuals with intellectual disabilities, such as higher rates of depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues (McCann et al., 2016). Training should provide strategies for supporting individuals in their mental health wellbeing, including the importance of creating a supportive and accepting environment, connecting individuals with appropriate resources, and fostering positive coping mechanisms. Care staff should also be trained to recognise signs of distress and to provide appropriate emotional support.

  • Relationships, Intimacy, and Sexuality Education

LGBTI+ awareness training for care staff should address the specific needs and considerations related to relationships, intimacy, and sexuality for individuals with intellectual disabilities (Swango-Wilson, 2011). This component should cover topics such as consent, boundaries, healthy relationships, and safe sexual practices. Care staff should be trained on how to provide accurate information, guidance, and support regarding sexual health and reproductive rights, tailored to the unique needs and abilities of each individual. Providing incorrect information can be detrimental to the individual (McCann et al., 2016).

  • Cultural Competence and Sensitivity

Care staff should receive training on cultural competence and sensitivity in relation to LGBTI+ issues. This includes understanding the diverse cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds of individuals they support, and how these intersect with their sexual orientation or gender identity. Training should emphasise the importance of respecting and valuing cultural differences while also promoting inclusivity and challenging discriminatory attitudes or practices that may exist within certain cultural contexts. LGBTI+ people of colour who also have an ID may face different types of discrimination compared to other minorities (Balsam et al., 2011) and it is important this is recognised and acknowledged.

  • Collaboration and Partnerships

Comprehensive LGBTI+ awareness training should emphasise the importance of collaboration and partnerships with other professionals, organisations, and community resources. Care staff should be encouraged to establish networks and connections to access additional support, share knowledge and best practices, and participate in ongoing professional development opportunities. By fostering collaboration, care staff can enhance their ability to provide holistic and comprehensive support to LGBTI+ individuals with an ID as community involvement is shown to enhance the life of an LGBTI+ person and their self-image (LeBeau & Jellison, 2009).

  • Ongoing Evaluation and Feedback

LGBTI+ awareness training should not be a one-time event but rather an ongoing process. Care staff should receive regular updates and opportunities for further education and training to stay informed about emerging issues, best practices, and legal updates. Additionally, the training program should incorporate mechanisms for feedback and evaluation to ensure its effectiveness and relevance to the needs of both care staff and the individuals they support. Feedback also allows the organisations and trainers to continually enhance the programme to ensure its suitability and appropriateness (Pineda, 2010).

Conclusion

Comprehensive LGBTI+ awareness training for care staff working with individuals with intellectual disabilities plays a vital role in providing inclusive, respectful, and effective support. By including a wide range of components, such as fundamental concepts and challenges, intersectionality, and legal rights, building inclusive environments as well as fostering collaboration, care staff can be well-prepared to meet the diverse needs of LGBTI+ individuals with an ID. Evaluating this training can ensure it is always up-to-date and in line with any company polices, as well in giving the correct information that meets the needs of the LGBTI+ community. With this training, care settings can become affirming spaces where LGBTI+ individuals with and ID are understood, valued, and empowered to live authentic and fulfilling lives.

Chapter Five – Discussion

Introduction

This dissertation, followed by a research proposal, has looked at the training for social care and support staff working with individuals with an ID who identify as a member of the LGBTI+ community and/or wish to explore a same-sex relationship.

After the introductory chapter one, chapter two looked at the prevalence of same sex attraction amongst individuals with an ID. It looked at the discrimination faced both through being a member of the LGBTI+ community and through having a disability, while also examining briefly what people with an ID know about sexuality and interpersonal relationships.

Chapter three explored what training is available for social care and support staff, including the HIQA standards, HSELand and other training opportunities, as well as asking why training appears to be rare.

Finally chapter four suggested the different elements needed for any training course on the subject of supporting a person with ID to explore their sexuality or a same-sex relationship.

So should any training be made mandatory or be a voluntary option for social care staff?

Life Course Theory

According to Elder (1994) life course theory is based on five key principles: life-span development, human agency, historical time and geographic place, timing of decisions, and linked lives (Elder, 1994). With regard to the training of social care staff and the support of a person with an ID who wishes to explore their sexual identity the last principle, linked lives, is vastly important due to the high number of people the person could come into contact with while they discover their true identity and live their best life. Stakeholders, who would be considered to have ‘linked lives’ with the person supported, have the potential to drastically influence the people they support (Varvasovszky & Brugha, 2000).

These people could include:

  • Family: Family members, including parents, siblings, and other relatives, often play a significant role in the life of an individual with an intellectual disability. Their support, acceptance, and understanding can greatly influence the LGBTI+ person’s sense of belonging and self-esteem (Ryan et al., 2010).
  • Care Staff and Support Workers: Professionals and support workers who directly interact with the individual on a regular basis, such as caregivers, disability support workers, or personal assistants, can provide essential care, assistance, and emotional support. Their understanding of LGBTI+ issues and inclusive practices is crucial in creating a safe and inclusive environment (Kuzma et al., 2019).
  • Educators and School Staff: Teachers, school counsellors, and other education professionals have a role in supporting LGBTI+ students with intellectual disabilities within the school environment. They can contribute to creating inclusive classrooms, implementing anti-bullying policies, and providing appropriate sex education and social skills training (Dessel et al., 2017).
  • Mental Health Professionals: Psychologists, therapists, or counsellors who specialise in working with individuals with intellectual disabilities and LGBTI+ concerns can provide valuable support. They can help address mental health challenges, assist with identity exploration, and offer coping strategies (Gonsiorek, 1988).
  • Peers and Friends: Building and maintaining friendships and social connections is important for everyone, including LGBTI+ individuals with intellectual disabilities. Peers who are accepting, understanding, and inclusive can provide a supportive network, promote social integration, and foster a sense of belonging (Snapp et al., 2015).
  • LGBTI+ Community Organisations: Local, national and even international LGBTI+ organisations can provide resources, support groups, and advocacy specifically tailored to the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities. These organisations can offer opportunities for social engagement, community events, and access to information and services (Snapp et al., 2015).
  • Advocacy and Support Services: Disability advocacy organisations and support services dedicated to promoting the rights and well-being of individuals with intellectual disabilities can play a vital role. They can provide guidance on navigating legal protections, assist with accessing appropriate healthcare, and offer assistance in addressing any discrimination or barriers faced (Medina-Martínez et al., 2021).

It is important for any and all stakeholders who support people with an ID to work collaboratively and ensure that the rights, needs, and experiences of LGBTI+ individuals with an ID are understood, respected, and supported throughout various aspects of their lives.

Mandatory Training

It is essential for social care professionals to be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to support individuals from all walks of life, and this training should regularly be updated due to the nature of an ever changing society (Basarab-Horwath & Morrison, 1998). One significant aspect of this is could be in ensuring that professionals receive mandatory training in LGBTI+ issues. By creating an understanding, learning empathy, and cultural competency, such training plays a crucial role in enhancing the effectiveness of care provided to LGBTI+ individuals (McCann et al., 2016).

Mandatory LGBTI+ training would promote inclusivity by cultivating an environment where all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, feel valued and respected. It could help professionals challenge their own biases and stereotypes, creating a culture of equality within a care setting (McGuire & Bagher, 2010). By understanding the unique challenges and experiences faced by LGBTI+ individuals, social care professionals can tailor their approach to ensure that care is delivered in a sensitive and affirming manner.

Effective communication is fundamental to providing quality care (Leonard et al., 2004). Mandatory LGBTI+ training would equip social care professionals with the necessary skills to communicate effectively with LGBTI+ individuals, including using appropriate terminology and respecting pronouns.

As stated during this piece of work LGBTI+ individuals often face health disparities and higher rates of mental health challenges compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts, and LGBTI+ people with an ID can possible suffer dual discrimination (Bennett, 2002). Mandatory LGBTI+ training could provide social care professionals with insights into these disparities and give them with strategies to address them effectively. Discrimination and bullying are unfortunate realities that many LGBTI+ individuals continue to face (Lee & Ostergard, 2017). Mandatory LGBTI+ training could equip social care professionals with the knowledge and tools to identify and address discrimination and bullying within care settings. For many LGBTI+ individuals, self-acceptance and identity exploration can be complex journeys. For individuals with an ID this can become even more complex. Social care professionals with mandatory LGBTI+ training can provide the necessary guidance and support, offering a safe space for individuals to explore and express their identities. They can help individuals navigate challenges, develop resilience, and build a positive sense of self, promoting overall well-being and life satisfaction.

Voluntary Training

Voluntary training allows social care professionals to exercise their autonomy and agency in their professional development. By giving professionals the choice to engage in LGBTI+ training, their individual interests are respected, as well as their learning preferences, and readiness to explore the subject matter. This autonomy can lead to a more engaged and motivated workforce (Curado et al., 2015).

When training is voluntary, professionals who opt to participate are more likely to approach it with genuine interest and motivation (Mathieu et al., 1992). By choosing to learn social care professionals are more likely to invest their time and effort , leading to better care provision (Tough, 1979).

Voluntary training encourages social care professionals to engage in self-reflection and self-awareness (Meyers, 2009). When learning about LGBTI+ issues there is the potential for them to learn about their own beliefs, biases, and attitudes towards LGBTI+ individuals. By actively choosing to explore these topics, professionals can critically examine their own perspectives, challenge any preconceived notions, and cultivate a greater sense of cultural competency. This self-reflection and growth contribute to the personal and professional development of social care professionals, enabling them to provide more inclusive and sensitive care (Gill et al., 2018).

Offering voluntary training allows social care professionals to access education and resources that align with their specific areas of interest or the unique needs of the populations they serve. Professionals can choose from a variety of training programs, workshops, or resources. This “cafeteria learning model” ensures that professionals acquire knowledge and skills that directly apply to their practice, resulting in more targeted and effective care (Douglas & McKenzie, 2016).

Is training needed at all?

In his books ‘Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male’ and ‘Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female’ Alfred Kinsey suggests the number of LGBTI+ people in society is approximately 10% of the population (Kinsey & Institute for Sex Research, 1998; Kinsey et al., 1998), although a poll by done by the Irish Times and Ipsos MRBI suggest the number is closer to 4% (O’Brien, 2015).

A survey done by the Health Research Board and the National Ability Supports System revealed that 23,673 identified as having an intellectual disability (Casey et al., 2020).

With those two results the assumption could be made that approximately 950 people with an ID also identify as LGBTI+ but it is important to acknowledge that some respondents may not have felt comfortable disclosing their LGBTI+ status (Löfgren-Mårtenson, 2009).

With less than a thousand people identifying as LGBTI+ and having an ID from a time management and financial point of view it may make more sense for training to be offered on a voluntary basis, rather than making it mandatory for staff who may never support a LGBTI+ person. That being said, if some people are hiding their identity could knowing staff are trained to support them encourage them to open up and explore their sexual identity?

It could be argued that the primary focus is providing quality care and support. Critics may argue that spending time and resources on training that may not directly impact the core responsibilities of care staff is unnecessary.  The allocation of limited resources will always be an issue while with time management and budgets are always in senior managers considerations (Popov, 2015).

The question of whether training care staff in LGBTI+ issues is necessary sparks debate among various stakeholders. While some argue that such training may not be essential to the core responsibilities of care staff or may not warrant resource allocation, others emphasise the importance of inclusivity and cultural competency (Heslop et al., 2020). Striking a balance between addressing immediate care needs and promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity is a complex task.

Conclusion

The provision of mandatory training for social care professionals appears to be not only essential but also imperative when it comes to ensuring the delivery of the best possible care for individuals who identify as LGBTI+ and also have an ID. When training is made voluntary, there is a significant risk that key stakeholders involved in the care of LGBTI+ individuals with an ID may not possess the necessary knowledge and skills to adequately support them.

By actively promoting inclusivity, improving communication practices, addressing health disparities, mitigating discrimination, and supporting identity exploration, mandatory training programmes equip social care professionals with the tools they need to provide sensitive and affirming care to LGBTI+ individuals. These training initiatives create a culture of acceptance and equality within care settings, ensuring that every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, receives the support they require to thrive.

In an ever-evolving society that continues to progress towards greater inclusivity, it is crucial that social care professionals are well-prepared and equipped to meet the diverse needs of the LGBTI+ community. Mandatory training programs serve as a proactive response to the specific challenges faced by LGBTI+ individuals with an ID. By incorporating comprehensive training modules that cover topics such as understanding different sexual orientations, navigating gender identity issues, and addressing the unique concerns of individuals with an ID, social care professionals can enhance their competence and effectiveness in providing appropriate care.

By implementing mandatory training, care providers create an environment where the rights, dignity, and individuality of LGBTI+ individuals with an ID are respected and upheld. These training programs encourage sensitivity, empathy, and a deep understanding of the intersectionality between sexual orientation, gender identity, and intellectual disability. Social care professionals who have undergone this training are better positioned to offer tailored support and services, ensuring that the specific needs and aspirations of LGBTI+ individuals with an ID are acknowledged and prioritised.

Furthermore, mandatory training for social care professionals plays a vital role in reducing health disparities and improving overall well-being. By addressing the unique challenges and barriers faced by LGBTI+ individuals with an ID, these training programs facilitate the development of inclusive care plans that promote physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Professionals who are well-versed in the complexities of the LGBTI+ community can actively work towards eliminating health disparities and ensuring equitable access to healthcare services for all.

In summary, the implementation of mandatory training programs for social care professionals could be a critical step towards providing inclusive and quality care to LGBTI+ individuals with an ID. Such training initiatives create a culture of acceptance, equality, and respect within care settings, enabling professionals to deliver sensitive and affirming care. By equipping social care professionals with the necessary skills, knowledge, and understanding, mandatory training programs contribute to the ongoing progress towards greater inclusivity in society, ensuring that every individual receives the support they need to thrive and lead fulfilling lives.

 

 

Chapter Six – Research Proposal

A Training Needs Assessment of social care staff who may be supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities who wish to explore their LGBTI+ Sexuality.

Introduction

Background

Individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) have the right to explore and express their sexual orientation and gender identity, just like any other person. This is ingrained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, under articles 1, 2, 19 and in part 27 (United Nations, 1948). However, research indicates that individuals with ID who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI+) face unique challenges due to societal stigma, discrimination, and a lack of understanding (McCann et al., 2016). Social care staff working with individuals with ID play a crucial role in supporting their overall well-being, including their sexual identity exploration. Thus, it is important to assess the training needs of care staff to enhance their abilities in providing inclusive and supportive care.

Research Objective

The objective of this research proposal is to conduct a comprehensive Training Needs Assessment to determine the level of preparedness, knowledge, and skills of care staff in supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities in exploring their LGBTI+ sexuality. The findings will inform the development of targeted training programs aimed at improving care staff’s competence in providing inclusive support and guidance.

The objectives that will guide this research are:

  1. Investigate the prevalence of same-sex attraction amongst individuals with an intellectual disability.
  2. Explore training for social care staff on same-sex attraction in people with an intellectual disability.
  3. Examine what staff consider is needed in any LGBTI+ training for social care staff working with individuals with an ID who express a same-sex attraction.

Methodology

Research Design

This research will employ a mixed-methods approach consisting of both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods to obtain a holistic understanding of the training needs of care staff. Qualitative research seeks to explore and comprehend the significance and experiential aspects of human lives and social environments. The key aspect of effective qualitative research lies in shedding light on the subjective meanings, actions, and social contexts as perceived and understood by the research participants themselves (Fossey et al., 2002). Quantitative research focuses on measurement and operates under the assumption that the subject being studied can be quantitatively measured. Its objective is to collect data through measurement, analyse that data to identify patterns and correlations, and validate the measurements taken (Watson, 2015).

Using both the methods allows the researcher to not only discover what is known and unknown on the subject by the participants, but to also monitor the number of individuals who have or may require training and asses the number of people with an ID that they support who may identify as a member of the LGBTI+ community.

Participant Selection

The study will involve social care staff working in various settings, including residential care facilities, community support services, and day programmes, catering to individuals with intellectual disabilities. To address the research inquiries, it seems unlikely that the researcher will be able to gather data from every instance (Taherdoost, 2016), as such a purposive sampling method will be utilised to ensure diverse representation in terms of age, gender, educational background, and professional experience.

Data Collection

The data collection process will include the following components:

Survey Questionnaire:            A structured questionnaire will be developed to assess care staff’s current knowledge, attitudes, and experiences related to supporting individuals with ID in their LGBTI+ sexuality exploration. The questionnaire will include items related to their understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity, awareness of the specific challenges faced by LGBTI+ individuals with ID, and their comfort level in addressing these topics. Questionnaires prove valuable in examining the viewpoints or sentiments of a particular group of individuals (Bee & Murdoch-Eaton, 2016). Respondents will not be asked to give their names but will be asked to provide an email address so researchers can contact them to take part in either a focus group or an individual interview. Each questionnaire will be assigned a unique number and this number will be used in results. No identifying details of any single respondent will be used in any publicly available results or reports.

Focus Group Discussions:     Focus group discussions (FGD) will be conducted with a subset of respondents to explore their perspectives, challenges, and training needs in more depth. The FGDs will provide an opportunity for participants to share their experiences, discuss any difficulties they encounter when supporting LGBTI+ individuals with ID, and suggest strategies to enhance their training. The FGDs will be audio-recorded and transcribed for thematic analysis. Focus groups prove to be an efficient approach for delving into the attitudes and requirements of staff members (Wilson, 1997).

Individual Interviews:             From the survey results a selection of respondents will be chosen and invited to attend in-depth interviews. These interviews will provide valuable insights into the lived experiences, perspectives, and specific training needs around supporting people with an ID who may wish to explore their LGBTI+ sexuality or explore same-sex relationships. The interview holds significant value as a data collection method, involving verbal interaction between the researcher and the participant (Fox, 2009).

Confidentiality

Confidentiality plays a crucial role in research involving questionnaires, focus groups, and individual interviews, as it ensures the privacy and protection of participants’ information. Privacy and confidentiality share similarities that can often cause misunderstandings, but they possess distinct definitions and significance (Elkoumy et al., 2022). Understanding the distinction between privacy and confidentiality aids in developing ethical guidelines and establishing principles to safeguard respondents against the risks associated with insufficient consent procedures and data handling (Berle, 2011).Upholding confidentiality is essential to encourage open and honest responses, foster trust between researchers and participants, and uphold ethical standards in research. Preserving confidentiality entails guaranteeing that specific individuals cannot be connected to the data they contribute (Mack et al., 2005).

To effectively manage confidentiality, several measures will be implemented. Firstly, researchers will clearly communicate to participants that their responses and identities will be kept strictly confidential. This reassurance helps alleviate concerns and encourages participants to provide candid and truthful information (Cowles, 1988).

In the case of questionnaires, researchers will assign unique identification codes to each participant instead of using personal identifiers. This ensures that responses remain anonymous and cannot be linked back to specific individuals but also allows for authorised researchers to contact specific respondents for clarity of answers or invitations to further participation.

Furthermore, researchers must take precautions to store and handle data securely. All collected data will be stored in password-protected electronic systems or locked cabinets, accessible only to authorised researchers. When analysing data, researchers will aggregate and summarise responses to prevent individual identification.

Data Analysis

Quantitative data collected through the survey questionnaire will be analysed using appropriate statistical methods, such as descriptive statistics and inferential analyses, to identify patterns, trends, and gaps in care staff’s knowledge and training needs (Liu et al., 1999). Qualitative data obtained from FGDs, and individual interviews will be analysed using thematic analysis to identify recurring themes and patterns in care staff’s experiences, challenges, and recommendations. Triangulation of data from multiple sources will provide a comprehensive understanding of the training needs of care staff. This is the most effective approach to establishing the validity of research methods and constructing theories within a single study (Murphy, 1989).

Ethical Considerations

This research will adhere to ethical guidelines, ensuring the privacy, confidentiality, and voluntary participation of all care staff and stakeholders involved. Informed consent will be obtained from each participant, and steps will be taken to ensure the data collected remains confidential and is used solely for research purposes. Confidentiality protocols will be implemented during data collection, storage, and dissemination to protect the identities of the participants.

Anticipated Outcomes and Impact

The outcomes of this research will contribute to a better understanding of the training needs of care staff in supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities in exploring their LGBTI+ sexuality.

Improved Knowledge and Competence of Care Staff

The research will provide valuable insights into the current knowledge and competence of care staff in supporting individuals with ID in their LGBTI+ sexuality exploration. The findings will help identify areas where additional training and education are needed, allowing care staff to better understand the unique challenges faced by LGBTI+ individuals with ID and develop appropriate strategies to provide inclusive and supportive care. Training programs can be designed to cover topics such as terminology, understanding sexual orientation and gender identity, addressing stereotypes and biases, promoting inclusive language, supporting self-expression, and creating safe spaces. This education could lead to better care provision for LGBTI+ people who also have an ID (Kuzma et al., 2019).

Promotion of Inclusive Practices

By addressing the training needs identified through this research, care staff will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to create a more inclusive environment for individuals with ID to explore and express their sexual orientation and gender identity. This will contribute to fostering a culture of acceptance, understanding, and respect within care settings. Training programs can emphasise the importance of promoting autonomy, self-determination, and self-advocacy for LGBTI+ individuals with ID, while also addressing the specific needs and challenges they may face in relation to their sexuality. Inclusive spaces have played a crucial role in creating a secure environment for LGBTI+ individuals with marginalised sexual and gender identities, allowing them to freely express themselves (Knee, 2019).

Enhanced Well-being and Quality of Life

By ensuring that care staff are adequately trained and prepared to support individuals with ID in their LGBTI+ sexuality exploration, the research will contribute to improving the overall well-being and quality of life of these individuals. Creating an environment where they can freely express their identities without fear of discrimination or stigma will have a positive impact on their mental health, self-esteem, and overall happiness. Training programs can incorporate strategies for addressing the unique social, emotional, and mental health needs of LGBTI+ individuals with ID, including providing access to appropriate support services, fostering positive social connections, and promoting self-acceptance. With LGBTI+ people having higher rates of anxiety and depression, having staff trained in the issues faced by LGBTI+ individuals could enhance their quality of life (Yarns et al., 2016).

Creating Supportive Networks and Partnerships

The research findings can facilitate the development of partnerships and collaborations between care organisations, advocacy groups, and community organisations specialising in LGBTI+ issues. This collaboration can promote the sharing of best practices, resources, and expertise, leading to the creation of comprehensive support networks for LGBTI+ individuals with ID. Training programs can also incorporate guest speakers and experts from these organisations to provide additional insights and perspectives. Supportive networks and partnerships have the potential to increase the social capital of the people the social care staff support (Taylor et al., 2004).

Conclusion

Through a mixed-methods approach incorporating surveys, focus group discussions, and individual interviews, this research proposal aims to conduct a comprehensive training needs assessment. The assessment will focus on examining the preparedness and training requirements of social care staff in supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) in exploring their LGBTI+ identity and same-sex relationships. By employing various data collection methods, this study seeks to provide a holistic understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by care staff in this specific context.

By identifying gaps in knowledge and understanding, the findings of this research will lay the foundation for the development of targeted training programs. These programs will address the specific needs and concerns of social care staff, equipping them with the necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies to provide effective support and guidance to individuals with ID in their exploration of their LGBTI+ identities. Ultimately, such training programs hold the potential to improve the overall quality of care provided to this marginalised population.

Moreover, the outcomes of this study have the potential to contribute to the creation of a more inclusive and accepting society. By shedding light on the unique experiences and challenges faced by individuals with ID in exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity, this research aims to challenge societal norms and promote acceptance. It emphasises the importance of recognising and respecting the rights and identities of all individuals, regardless of their cognitive abilities or sexual orientation. Through increased knowledge, awareness, and competence among care staff, we can work towards a society that values diversity and promotes the well-being of all its members.

Furthermore, this research endeavour has the potential to foster collaborations and partnerships among organisations. By engaging with various stakeholders, such as advocacy groups, service providers, and policymakers, this study can create supportive networks that enhance the resources available for LGBTI+ individuals with ID. These collaborations can facilitate the development of comprehensive support systems and promote the integration of inclusive policies and practices within the social care sector.

Ultimately, the overarching goal of this research is to empower individuals with ID to explore their identities, lead fulfilling lives, and be supported by a caring and knowledgeable community. By equipping social care staff with the necessary skills and understanding, this study aspires to create an environment where individuals with ID can freely express their authentic selves. Through the combined efforts of researchers, care providers, and society at large, we can strive towards a future where all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their cognitive abilities or sexual orientation.

 

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