Learning disability charity Mencap has welcomed news that many local authorities are introducing policies to tackle forced marriages involving people with a learning disability.
On August 1, BBC Radio 4's Face The Facts reported that dozens of local authorities are stepping up their action to reduce the number of people with a learning disability involved in forced marriages, following a growing number of referrals to the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit.
In 2011, around 4% of the cases seen by the Forced Marriage Unit involved a person with a learning disability. This figure has increased year-on-year in the past 3 years, but it is believed that this figure is vastly underestimated, according to Mencap.
Face The Facts highlighted that the Social Care Institute for Excellence now has pan-London policies and procedures that all 33 London local authorities have signed up to. Those explicitly look at the issue of forced marriage for people that lack the capacity to consent to marriage. In addition, SCIE has developed pan-West Midlands policies and procedures that cover a further 12 local authorities.
Mencap’s chief executive Mark Goldring said: “People with a learning disability have a right to express their emotions and sexuality, and to develop personal relationships, just like anyone else. In fact, when asked what is important to them, many people with a learning disability put relationships at the top of their list.
“The issue here is that incidences of forced marriage can involve people with a learning disability who are unlikely to have the capacity to consent to such a relationship. People with a learning disability can be particularly vulnerable to forced marriage because they can be isolated, can find it difficult communicating their views or reporting abuse, or they may be particularly reliant on the people who are arranging the marriage.
“We believe that people with a learning disability should be provided with support to ensure that they can make a real choice regarding marriage and sexual relationships. We welcome steps by local authorities to address this serious issue.”
Goldring features in Face The Facts, which is repeated on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday August 5 at 9pm.