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Influencing UK policy on sexuality and relationships

Open University research on sexuality and intimacy has had a direct impact on policy and practice concerning personal relationships in the UK.

Key aspects of this research

  • Impacted on policy, practice and public understandings of intimate relationships
  • Highlighted issues around bisexuality
  • Provided new training packages for professionals in relationship therapy

Graffiti on a wall

The research team based at The Open University’s Research Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance has been involved, in particular, with work on the UK bisexual experience which resulted in The Open University and BiUK publishing The Bisexuality Report, which has informed public debate and understanding of bisexuality. The report has been endorsed by a number of national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) organisations (including Stonewall), has been downloaded over 50,000 times since publication in February 2012, and discussed in the national and international media.

Highlighting biphobia

The Bisexuality Report has also attracted the attention of the UK Government. Dr Meg Barker, one of the authors, has been invited to be a member of the government-funded Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGB&T) Partnership and the LGB&T Chief Executives Network. The authors have also met the Government Equalities Office to discuss the implementation of the report’s recommendations and recent government initiatives now refer to ‘homophobia, biphobia and transphobia’ when past initiatives had not included biphobia.

This evidence and research could really raise the national consciousness of [relationship] issues and put them firmly in the debate… this is a milestone.

Ruth Sutherland (Relate CEO)

Dr Jacqui Gabb and Dr Janet Fink are the lead researchers on Enduring Love? an ESRC-funded project that addresses how relationships survive the stresses of 21st-century life, and assesses what can be learned from couples who stay together. The main outcomes from the research were launched in January 2014, receiving international and national attention. The extent of this coverage has moved beyond the dissemination of findings, provoking ongoing policy and public debate on the impact of parenting, sexuality, and what constitutes relationship work more generally.

Influencing debates on relationships

The research team worked closely with relevant government departments and professional organisations, such as Relate and One Plus One, and presented its findings to the Department for Education (DfE) as part of the relationship support policy agenda. The research has impacted on the democratic debate on couple relationships, and the researchers were invited to participate in consultation events, including those at the House of Commons (April 2012, February 2013 and July 2013) and Labour Policy Review (2014).

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