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He said: "When people go to councils for help, they are looking for essential services to maintain some level of dignified existence – help to dress and wash.Given that councils have been drawing the most basic support from those who need it, I do not think this is the biggest concern of people with disabilities." Liz Sayce, chief executive of disability network Radar, said the desire for sexual relations was a matter of human rights, meaning cases involving payments should be carefully examined on a "case by case" basis.In Greater Manchester and Norfolk, councils say payments to social care clients can be used to pay for internet dating subscriptions.

"From what I have seen, at least one quarter of local authorities are doing support plans which only state what outcome should be achieved – not which services are being employed." In the case of someone given funds to go to a sex worker, such documents might set out an intended emotional outcome, rather than the means by which it was achieved, she suggested.

The FOI survey, by The Outsiders and TLC Trusts – two groups which campaign for the sexual rights of people with disabilities – found most local authorities said they did not "condone" transfer of their funds to pay for sex.

But of 121 councils who responded, 97 per cent said they had no policy on the topic, allowing discretion for social workers and junior managers about how to manage such requests.

A spokesman said people "in receipt of our care can do whatever they wish, though we would not condone or be involved in anything illegal".

A spokeswoman for Knowsley council said requests for funding to access sexual services would be "looked at on a case by case nature".

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