Graduation Tales: “I’m determined to make a difference in learning disability healthcare”

Edward Oliodi

A research assistant at the University of South Wales has focused his PhD on ensuring that people with learning disabilities have the support they need around sexual health.

Edward Oliodi, who is originally from Nigeria, has achieved his PhD after studying the BSc in Health and Social Care at USW.

Having moved to Wales in 2004, Edward, who lives in Cilfynydd with his wife Abiodun and their three children, already held a degree and Masters certificates from his home country, but was not able to get a job until he had gained similar qualifications here in the UK.

Effectively starting again with his education, he decided to use his experience in working with adults with learning disabilities as the basis of his research. His 16 years in Wales had shown him the stark differences between the support available in Nigeria and the UK.

“In Nigeria, the responsibility of caring for someone with a learning disability lies solely with their family – it is very much a private issue, and there is no government support available,” he said.

“So I came into the field with an open mind, which helped me to identify gaps in the provision for people with learning disabilities – and one of these was the challenge faced by healthcare workers when addressing the sexual health needs of service users.

“This gave me the motivation for my PhD, in the hope that my research could contribute to the delivery of person-centred support, services and staff understanding around sexuality strategies and support plans.”

Edward had spent time at adult respite settings, where service users were given opportunities to meet others and form relationships. It was then that he realised that more could be done for people to spend time with their partners in supported living placements.

His most recent study has been into the influence of society on the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of social care workers towards support for the personal and sexual relationship needs of those with learning disabilities. He is about to publish his first paper on the study, and plans to share his findings with PhD students in Bristol and Dublin who have undertaken similar research.

During his PhD studies, Edward has also been part of the USW team that helped develop a new health communication tool for people with learning disabilities, as well as helping to form a new learning disability educational framework for healthcare staff in Wales.

He added: “I’m very proud of what I have achieved, especially alongside raising a family, and I feel such a fulfilment to have reached the end of my PhD after such a long, interesting and challenging journey.

“While it feels somewhat bittersweet to come to this point during the COVID-19 pandemic, I know that research will be ever more important for people with learning disabilities and their families.”

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