As part of Learning Disability Week, we have invited Corrina Williams, director of Cwmni Addysg Rhyw – Sex Education Company, to talk about the crucial work Cwmni Addysg Rhyw do to help adults with a learning disability to have happy and healthy relationships.

This is the first of an ongoing series highlighting members of Learning Disability Wales and the important work they do. If you would like to write a blog about your organisation’s work, please email

A diverse image showing 3 couples hugging each other

My name is Corrina Williams, and I am lucky enough to be a director for Cwmni Addysg Rhyw – Sex Education Company. Cwmni Addysg Rhyw is a social enterprise, not for profit company, based in Gwynedd. We deliver funded projects in North Wales, as well as workshops, training and consultancy across Wales, the UK and beyond (thanks to the joys of post-pandemic online learning).

Cwmni Addysg Rhyw is now well established as a go-to agency for rights-based relationships and sexuality education (RSE) and skill building support for those whose life circumstances can present barriers to equitable, happy and healthy friendships, romance sex and intimacy. Our organisation is made up of myself, my partner director, Mel Gadd, and our growing team of skilled staff.

Not enough accessible information, too much caution

In 2020, we were approached by a local advocacy provision to explore addressing the significant gap in education and understanding around the rights of adults with learning disabilities to have friendship and relationship opportunities. It felt clear that there was (and still is!) a lack of appropriate and understandable information available to individuals within the learning disability community. There was also a culture of heightened concern around safeguarding among those who provided support and care, which often impeded people’s rights.

We applied to the local learning disability transformation service for funding to begin to meet this need. We were successful in our bid and the Sparc project was born.

Sparc offers bespoke, needs-led RSE and skills sessions to adults with learning disabilities. It has the overarching aim of equipping people with skills and knowledge to help break down some of the barriers they experience in terms of having equitable relationships and intimacy.  We usually work one to one or with couples, but we also run group learning workshops as well as offering regular workplace training days to supporting staff.

So, what have we learned from running our Sparc programme? Unfortunately, we consistently find that our initial reasons for starting the work still exist. There is a general lack of awareness of rights and a lack of insight into how to support people to have the best and most opportunities to get out and socialise, meet new people and make new social or romantic connections.

“The world of romance and sex within the learning disability community remains generally very risk averse for both care providers and individuals themselves.”

We understand that the caution of support systems and services come from a place of wishing to keep people safe and happy. However, the world of romance and sex within the learning disability community remains generally very risk averse for both care providers and individuals themselves. It is often focussed on potential vulnerability or danger, as opposed to the joy and benefits that could be gained from these relationships and experiences.

By creating a safe place and working with individuals to focus on their areas of need or concern, and exploring what their relationship and intimacy goals are, we can identify barriers and work towards realistic solutions.

It is a sad fact that the vast majority of adults with a learning disability will not be in long term partnerships or romantic relationships, and that for many whom we support it is not something which they expect to experience.

Prioritising healthy and happy relationships

Sparc aims to build confidence and reduce fear and stigma around entering into relationships and to help people to understand both their rights and responsibilities. These will include practical issues, such as support arrangements to authentically facilitating social or dating opportunities, to relationship dilemmas such as negotiating about contraception or ensuring full mutual consent for any sexual activity.

There is a need for agencies and support providers to do better and work together to support and enable the rights of the learning disability community. Cwmni Addysg Rhyw believes that education is a key starting point for this. We can support staff to balance the rights of a disabled person with their safeguarding or caring responsibilities and put healthy relationships and intimacy on the agenda.

Healthy and happy relationships for everyone should be viewed as the norm, rather than as special or unusual. We can still work together to support people to be safe. Safer in fact, as people gain their own strengths and resilience.

Building a culture where staff and support services feel safe, skilled and confident enough to support adults with learning disabilities to engage in taking positive risks in terms of their relationships and sex, is important. There needs to be a focus on what CAN we do, and where friendship, romance and intimacy is always on the agenda. This can result, not just in more and better relationships and opportunities for individuals, but in increased well-being and decreased support needs across the board.

Our ultimate goal here at Cwmni Addysg Rhyw is to continue meeting this need for education and to support and develop peoples’ rights to have the kind of relationships they want to have……the same as everyone else!

For more information about Cwmni Addysg Rhyw – Sex Education Company, visit their website at: