I thought the story about public money sending a 21-year-old guy with learning difficulties off to Amsterdam to soak in the sights, sample the unique local cuisine and have sex with a prostitute was the feelgood story of the week.
Not everyone agreed. Since it came to light that council money handed out to disabled people has paid for visits to lap-dancing clubs, prostitutes and sign-ups to internet dating sites, newspapers and radio phone-ins have been jam-packed with indignant voices.
Some object to a ‘mis-use of public funds’, some have expressed concern about the immorality of promoting ‘loveless’ sex as a social service, and some have even suggested that the state putting money into the hands of a sex-worker is ‘evil’ and/or ‘sick’.
It never ceases to amaze me how energetic people can get disapproving of acts of compassion being visited upon those less fortunate than themselves.
The facts — lost in the maelstrom naturally — are that councils are not paying directly for anyone to have sex, but are allocating people with disabilities funds so that, in the old Labour government’s words, they can ‘live their lives as they wish’ with ‘independence and dignity’.
As far as I’m concerned, whether the cash goes towards a wheelchair ramp or a late-night romp, this is a wonderful use of taxpayers’ money.
If it’s a choice between gifting a lonely or frustrated person full of longing and imagination that elusive experience they’ve dreamt about for years, or topping up high income families’ Champagne kitty in the form of monthly Child Benefit cheques, I know where I want my money going.
The most popular contention against this aspect of social care seems to be that unattractive and shy people find it hard to access sex as well, but no one pays for them to get laid.
This is a stupid and ignorant argument.
If you can’t see the difference between the need to facilitate a sexual experience for someone who has low self-esteem or who feels ugly, and doing the same for someone who can’t form words, or has to be fed through a tube, or has lost the use of all their limbs, I don’t think there’s enough room on this page for me to explain it to you. And that’s before we even begin to weigh up the realities for those whose mental capabilities do not, and will never, stretch to chatting up another human being, never mind making an emotional connection with one.
There is also a lobby — which as far as I can see, consists almost entirely of women — who appear to believe that sexual contact is no more important a ‘pastime’ than growing vegetables or collecting stamps.
They’re wrong. Sex is a crucial part of wellbeing. It's not just that the physical act is a crucial part of wellbeing which has all kinds of positive effects on our general health.
This is about people who are regularly ignored, avoided, bullied or humiliated, and not being held, touched, stroked or even kissed.
This is about (almost always) boys who have spent years fantasising about the female form finally putting their hands on a real life woman and, at last, having a long-time and deep-seated desire fulfilled.
So speak for yourself, you with the loud voice and the big beak and the disapproving look.
For my part, I’m proud that at least some of my taxes are making this country a better place for some of us to live in.