Reviewed by Stephen Kealy, Director of Psychology, Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary Services


This publication of the British Institute of Learning Disabilities, in collaboration with twenty organisations of the West-Midlands Learning Disability Forum, offers a balanced overview of relationships and a framework of good practice in respect of developing good social and personal relationships.

The document is written very much from the perspective both of people working with people with intellectual disabilities and of the person with intellectual disabilities. It starts from a perspective of rights and corresponding responsibilities. In many ways the framework of the publication reflects those underlying themes previously expressed in the Devlin v Harte controversy of the late 1960s.

While recognising the right of a person with intellectual disabilities, the document is weak in giving an understanding of how to implement those rights in an environment which takes account of their vulnerability.

It is refreshing to read in a publication many of the challenges and obstacles which arise for the person with intellectual disability in forming relationships and, indeed, being encouraged to form and foster relationships. These challenges do not only present for the person with intellectual disability, but also their parents and their guardians.

An underlying theme in the document is that of a duty of care to the person with intellectual disability who is in receipt of a service, and all that that actually means—not only for the recipient of the service, but also for the parents.

The publication deals with sexual relationships, both heterosexual and single-sex, and the consequent effects on staff and the people in such relationships. Again, the perspective is very much that of a right.

Overall, the publication is good and generally well laid out, and it is certainly easy to read. All points made are set against a legislative framework and it provides a good template on which services and parents could address relationship issues. There is, however, no philosophical position other than that of right, and it may possibly not have as wide an applicability as it could have. The publication is well worth reading and certainly should be made available in the library of unit heads.

SOCIAL AND PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS: Policy and good practice guidelines for staff working with adults with learning disabilities. (2001) Published by the British Institute of Learning Disabilities, Wolverhampton Road, Kidderminster, Worcs. DY10 3PP. Stg£12.00 + 5% p&p. ISBN 1 902519 74 4