Touching Base Survey 2002

Touching Base Survey of service providers to people with a disability – exploring the barriers to delivering and accessing sex work services

Researcher: Leanne Robinson
Academic Supervision: Eva Cox
University of Technology, Dept Humanities and Social Sciences, Sydney NSW, November 2002

Acknowledgements

Many people have contributed their time and skills to this project. Thanks to Matthew Bowden, Tanya Jochelson, Ramiro Torres, Jill Magginity, Steve Irons and Eva Cox for their assistance and feedback on the survey design.

Thanks also to Michelle Dodd for her advice on disability service organisations.

Special thanks to Maggie Moylan and Saul from the Touching Base Committee for their immense help and support during this project.

Executive Summary

This project aimed to explore the barriers to delivering and accessing sex work services for adults with disability. The project was established by the Touching Base Committee, which consists of people with disability, sex workers and representatives from service providers and advocacy groups. The Touching Base Committee commissioned this survey to increase their understanding of this area and to inform future policies. This report is intended to promote ongoing discussion and further activity by the Touching Base Committee.

This project is the first of two stages. The second stage intends to identify any conflict and/or contradictions in legislation relevant to the above issues. This will principally involve clarifying sections of the NSW Crimes Act 1900 and NSW Summary Offences Act 1988. A report on these findings will be provided under separate cover and will not be dealt with here. However it is important to note that the potential outcome of some of the Recommendations in this report will rely on the results of these clarifications.

The first stage of this report was in the form of a survey sent to nominated service providers and advocacy groups. This was devised to principally identify:

  • current levels of training and education for service providers in relation to sex and sexuality for people with disability;
  • current levels of training and education for people with disability in relation to sex and sexuality;
  • attitudes of service providers toward people with disability accessing sex work services;
  • instances and circumstances where people with disability had requested access to sex work services; and
  • the types of barriers encountered where people with disability had requested access to sex work services.

Thirty-six organisations from a range of services and locations completed the survey. The findings from this project revealed that the majority of respondents did feel a need for training and education in relation to sex and sexuality for people with disability. The majority received this training, though it is worth noting that many did not.

The majority of respondents reported that they provided training and education for their clients in relation to sex and sexuality. However, many did not and as in the situation for staff members, a lack of available training relevant to their clients’ needs was reported to be one of the major difficulties.

Most respondents indicated they were supportive of people in general and people with disability accessing sex work services. However, this was not reflected overall in the perceived attitudes of their organisations where the majority reported either that their organisation was not supportive or they were unsure.

More than half the respondents reported that clients in their organisation had requested access to sex work services. Many of these requests were met with varying degrees of frequency while some were never met.

A clear majority of the respondents who indicated that clients in their organisation had requested access to sex work services also reported experiencing barriers when attempting to assist with and/or arrange access to these services. Most of these respondents indicated experience with numerous barriers. Eighteen respondents identified over twelve types of barriers. As most reported multiple barriers, a total of 85 barriers were experienced overall. Respondents clearly see these barriers as a major issue when dealing with requests to access sex work services.

A wide range of barriers were identified. The most common response was the difficulty in accessing appropriate sex workers. Duty of care was also a common response. This may be a reflection of the lack of written policies on this issue, where the role of the staff member in relation to their clients well-being is unclear around the issue of accessing sex work services. Family disapproval, limited financial resources and access to transport were also commonly cited. Some of these barriers experienced are in common with the difficulties in obtaining and providing appropriate training and education for staff and clients.

Recommendations were proposed concerning the need for consistent training and education to be provided to both service providers and people with disability in relation to sex and sexuality.

Also recommended was the need for service providers to be encouraged to develop written policies on the issue of accessing sex work services.

Finally, the immediate necessity for more appropriately trained sex workers in relation to disability awareness and a process to be established where these sex workers can be contacted and/or referred by disability support and service organisations.

Recommendations

At this stage most recommendations here are largely aspirational given the limited resources and capacity of the Committee but in spite of the size of the sample surveyed here, the results of particular findings cannot be ignored.

  • Training and education in relation to sex and sexuality for people with disability should be consistently provided to appropriate staff in disability support and service organisation. This should include training and education accessible to regional and rural services.
  • Training and education in relation to assisting with and arranging access to sex work services for people with disability should be consistently provided to appropriate staff in disability support and service organisation. This should include training and education accessible to regional and rural services.
  • Training, education and other relevant materials in relation to sex and sexuality, where appropriate, should be provided to people with disability, in a consistent fashion. This should include training and education accessible to regional and rural services.
  • Encouragement should be given to service providers to develop written policies on the issue of accessing sex work services based on an informed knowledge of the rights and obligations of staff members as well as the rights of people with disability. (Although the issue of policy to some degree may be impeded by the ambiguities of relevant legislation – still to be clarified).
  • That access to sex work services be formally acknowledged by the disability services industry as a legitimate and innovative service that, where appropriate, may improve the quality of life for many people with disability. This recognition may also enhance the opportunities for people with disability to have equal access to sex work services along with other members of the community.
  • The immediate necessity for more appropriately trained sex workers in relation to disability awareness.
    •A process to be established where these sex workers can be contacted and/or referred by disability support and service organisations. (Although this issue as well may be impeded by the ambiguities of relevant legislation – still to be clarified).

As Stage II of this project has not been completed, there are still ambiguities around the legislation that may be relevant to some of the Recommendations above. It remains to be seen whether these ambiguities will clarify these issues for service providers and people with disability.

Tables/Contents

Table 1. Primary Service
Table 2. Location of Organisation
Table 3. Role in the Organisation
Table 4. Primary Diagnosis of Disability
Table 5. Need for Specific Training/Education in relation to sex and sexuality for people with disabilities
Table 6. Need for Specific Training/Education – Was Training/Education received?
Table 7. Need for Specific Training/Education – Difficulties experienced in obtaining information/training from outside organisations
Table 8. Organisations that provide Training/Education to their clients
Table 9. How Training was provided
Table 10. Reasons why no Training/Education provided
Table 11. Level of skill of respondent
Table 12. Level of competency of organisation
Table 13. Provision of sex-related material
Table 14. Type of sex-related materials provided
Table 15. How clients communicated their requests
Table 16. Have family members/carers ever prevented the provision of training/education/materials to clients?
Table 17. Have family members / carers ever prevented the provision of training / education / materials to clients? / Provision of training / education in relation to sex and sexuality
Table 18. Have family members/carers ever prevented the provision of training/education/materials to clients?/ Provision of sex -related materials
Table 19. Respondent’s attitudes toward accessing sex workers
Table 20. Organisations’ support for people with disabilities accessing sex work services
Table 21. Personal attitudes/Organisations’ attitudes toward accessing sex work services
Table 22. Organisations’ attitudes toward accessing sex work services – Organisations that have a written policy on this issue
Table 23. Would you benefit from training and education (in relation to sex work services)
Table 24. Would your organisation benefit from training and education (in relation to sex work services)
Table 25. Clients who have requested access to sex work services/premises
Table 26. Frequency of requests occurring / Frequency of request being met
Table 27. Clients requests to access sex work services/Organisations that have experienced particular barrier
Table 28. Types of Barriers identified
Table 29. Respondents’ attitudes toward people with disabilities accessing sex workers/Improved quality of life
Table 30. Clients requests to access sex work services / Improved quality of life
Table 31. Interested in Touching Base Committee / Clients requests to access sex work services
Table 32. Interested in Touching Base Committee / Improved quality of life

If you would like to see more information from the results of the survey, please email your requests to us at survey@touchingbase.org