Afford has released a new Sexuality and Relationships Policy and related staff learning module. Designed to support clients to identify and reach relationship and sexuality goals, they have been very well received.

We recognise and support the rights of people with disability to freedom of sexual expression, love, affection and interpersonal relationships. To guide our work in this important area, we have developed a new Sexuality and Relationships Policy. It was launched in November 2023. In May 2024, a new online learning module that builds ability to support clients in this area was launched. It is called Relationships and Sexuality: Your Role.

A new, more progressive policy

Sexuality Jill Maginnity

Jill Maginnity, Senior Advisor Safeguarding

The policy details how we will support clients to express their sexuality and have relationships of their choosing. It replaces a previous, outdated policy with a more progressive and person-centred approach.

“It’s about giving people permission to talk about and experience sexuality and relationships. In the past, the rights of people with disability to do this has not always been recognised or upheld,” explains Afford’s Senior Advisor Safeguarding, Jill Maginnity.

“This new direction fits in within the framework of being a whole person and experiencing a whole life. And relationships and sexuality are an essential part of that.”

We are embedding this new, more progressive approach to into other aspects of our work too. For example, we have updated our individual planning to include a specific question asking clients if they have any relationship or sexuality wants or needs they’d like to work on.

The importance of safeguarding and human rights

Afford’s Safeguarding team was created in 2021, when Afford appointed its new Executive Leadership and Senior Leadership Teams. At this time, we decided to make quality, safeguarding and best practice a priority across our organisation.

Our Safeguarding Framework is based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, and we are rights-led in everything we do.

In addition to protecting Afford clients’ rights to experience sexuality and relationships of their choosing, Jill runs our Human Rights Advocacy Group.

“The right to express yourself is a basic human right. And that includes people having relationships of their choosing and expressing who they are through identity, including sexual identity,” says Jill.

“The law assumes that everyone has capacity to consent unless proven otherwise. We don’t want to limit people. We want to be very open and clear that this is important, and we give our staff permission to support our clients to identify and meet their sexuality and relationship goals.”

About the learning module

The learning module is called Relationships and Sexuality: Your Role. It unpacks the policy in more detail and has been developed to help build disability support workers’ knowledge, awareness and confidence to support clients in this area.

Topics covered in the learning module include:

  • Consent – what it is and how to supports clients to understand consent
  • A support worker’s role in supporting a client to safely meet their relationship and sexuality needs and goals
  • What workers can and can’t do to support clients

The learning module is optional and takes about 25 minutes to complete.

Supporting staff to support clients

Maree Fletcher is Service Manager – Gold Coast and Logan and was one of the first staff members to complete the Relationships and Sexuality learning module.

“When I saw the email about the module, I registered straight away. We have clients who are in relationships, or who want to be in one. My biggest motivation was some clients who are engaged, but have never been on a date together,” says Maree.

After Maree completed the module, she contacted Jill for safeguarding advice and then supported her clients to plan a date and learn more about relationships. Their first date was a great success!

“The module gave me a way in to speaking with staff and families. Everyone I have spoken to is very excited. It’s such a positive thing to do.”

Next steps

To learn more about how Afford can support you to achieve your goals, contact our Support Centre via 1800 233 673 or tap this link to complete an online enquiry form.


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