An LGBT charity in Yorkshire known for working with child abuse victims is under heavy criticisms for coming out with a controversial guideline allowing staff to have “sexual relationships” with clients.
Charities and victims’ welfare experts have reacted strongly and said they were “astonished” at how the guideline was crafted connected to how the staff at Yorkshire MESMAC can conduct themselves with the people that use their service all over the county.
Said charity offers services as sexual health information, free HIV testing and counselling for LGBT young people and adults. One of its projects known as Blast project even works with young men and boys who have faced sexual exploitation.
The conduct policy for the charity’s workers has the odd declaration that says: “Sexual relationships are acceptable with service users initially met during work time, but this would be inappropriate if the service user has entered into a 1-2-1 or ongoing support relationship with the worker.”
Said rules do not involve the charity’s work with children. After attracting media interest, and inquiries, MESMAC suddenly shifted gears and said “it would be redrafting” the policy.
Others have raised concerns, if not opposition, with the guideline. Survivors Trust, a national agency providing support for victims of rape and sexual violence reacted with its chief executive Fay Maxted saying they’re “astonished” with how the policy has been written, as well as the “advice it contains about personal sexual relationship with service users.”
Maxted added: “The nearest example I can think of this would be appropriate or acceptable is around relationships with ex-service users and even then with caution.”
He reiterated the need to protect service users. Maxted further said: “The policy doesn’t sufficiently protect service users from workers who may exploit their position to gain access to vulnerable people. In fact, it’s a charter for workers to seek out service users they want to have a relationship with.”
Another expert expressed concern about the confused and confusing guideline. Dr. Alec Grant, a recently-retired reader in narrative mental health at the University of Brighton said: “The policy provides workers with contradictory guidelines: on the one hand they are told that it is not acceptable to turn work relationships into personal ones. They are then informed that they can pursue sexual relationships with service users met during work time,providing they are not in either a one-to-one or a supportive relationship.”
Grant pointed out that in other third-sector charity organizations, in fact, workers having sex with service users can cost them their jobs. Many charities often restrict, or totally ban, sexual relationships between their staff and the clients. Experts normally view sexual relationships as blurring private and professional roles and may make maintaining confidentiality difficult.
The charity said that it is now rewriting its policy, that is, of course, after receiving the strong backlash.