In 2012–2013, Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT (SHFPACT) was commissioned by the Government of the Australian Capital Territory to develop a policy template to support sexuality and relationships of clients with disabilities in the services it funded.
The project aimed to provide a policy development toolkit approach to support management and boards of disability service agencies to:
a) provide clear guidance to staff on the scope and limits of services that should be provided to clients in the areas of relationships, sexuality and sexual expression; and,
b) clarify the services that could or would be offered, and to communicate these clearly to current and future service users and their alternative decision-makers to enable them to make informed choices about where they purchase support services.
Methods: Using expert informants, key stakeholder interviews (and consultation forum), public policy review, and the experience of SHFPACT trainers in delivering professional learning to carers/workers in the disability support sector, the template was designed not as a single model policy, but as a policy menu including a suite of options that agencies could consider, adopt or adapt (or reject) to suit their specific operational needs and philosophical context.
Results: The project resulted in a customised policy development toolkit with multiple sample policy positions across 31 domains, tailored to the needs of community-based service providers in the context of significant reforms to funding arrangements with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Australia. Stakeholder feedback identified that the range of issues covered provoked strong management reactions in areas where agency policy is currently silent.
Conclusions: The articulation of rights-based policy positions is critical to ensuring the dignity and rights of people with disabilities in the area of sexuality and sexual health can be attained, and to support consistent practice of carers/support workers.
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