Promoting sexual safety through empowerment

Published: 27 February 2020 Page last updated: 28 February 2020

This report looks at how adult social care services keep people safe from sexual incidents. It also looks at how services can support them to express their sexuality.

Promoting sexual safety through empowerment cover image


It is a basic human right for people to express their sexuality. They should be empowered, supported and protected when using adult social care services.

Building a culture of openness in which people can talk about sexual safety and sexuality is the first step towards protecting and supporting them.

What we did

To prepare this report, we spoke to people using services and their families and carers. This included people who had been involved in sexual safety incidents. We also spoke to care providers, charities and other stakeholders.

Providers must notify us about certain incidents and events. We analysed the notifications we received from 1 March to 31 May 2018 that were about sexual incidents.

What we found

Stakeholders told us sex is often treated as a taboo subject. Providers, staff and families can be reluctant to raise issues. This can affect people’s wellbeing. It also means predatory behaviour can be missed or normalised.

The notifications we looked at told us what types of sexual incident providers had reported. They also told us things like who was involved and what the providers did in response to the incidents.

Our report concludes:

  • a lack of awareness of good practice in sexual safety and sexuality can place people at risk of harm
  • a culture must be developed where people and staff feel empowered to talk about sexuality and raise concerns around safety
  • as the regulator, we have a strong role in making sure people using services are protected and supported.

The report gives detailed recommendations for providers and leaders in adult social care, as well as for ourselves as the regulator.