Summary: People with intellectual disabilities still struggle to enjoy intimate and sexual relationships. Social workers have a potentially key role in realizing the intimate and sexual rights of people with intellectual disabilities, particularly in residential settings. However, we still know relatively little about the meaning social workers attribute to such relationships. The present study addresses this lacuna by examining the perceptions and practices of 15 Israeli social workers in residential settings. Findings: Drawing on thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews, two key themes are identified: (1) Intimate relationships as a human need, and (2) Intimacy with a question mark. Combined, these themes depict an ambivalent position toward residents’ intimate and sexual relationships. Applications: The study's findings highlight the need to incorporate intimacy and sexuality within social work education, with a particular focus on people with intellectual disabilities and positive aspects of intimacy and sexuality. From a policy perspective, the findings urge state and professional authorities to develop national guidelines on realizing intimate rights.
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© The Author(s) 2023.
- Social work
- learning disability