Yesterday Brook launched its new evening and weekend sexual health services for young people in Stockton on Tees - a really exciting initiative funded by Stockton’s Teenage Pregnancy Partnership and the Stockton Renaissance and Neighbourhood Renewal Fund.
The launch was led by young people aged between 15 and 17 who had made a film about sex and sexual health for the event. They had also come up with ideas for a range of activities and entertainment, and got their friends involved (including an up and coming young punk band who covered songs by the Buzzcocks and the Clash). The energy and enthusiasm they all brought to the event was infectious and invaluable.
I listened to two of the young people talking to each other: 'just been talking to her [nodded head towards a woman on other side of the room] for ages. She was really interested in what I had to say about sexual health.' She beamed as she spoke - clearly pleased that someone had listened.
The same two young women were also part of a group interviewed by their local radio station, and did a great job of explaining succinctly to the reporter why young people in Stockton needed these new services. ‘We don’t want to go somewhere where you might bump into your mum or your friend’s mum’, explained one, ‘we need somewhere just for young people’. ‘Teenage pregnancy is really common round here’, explained her male friend, and another proudly told the reporter she had just done a chlamydia test, explaining why it was important that other young people did the same.
Later I spoke to them and asked if they had enjoyed the afternoon. They had - the best thing, they told me, was giving their views and being listened to by adults, and they were really pleased they might make a difference for other young people. So easy to do, so important and yet still so many young people are not involved in decision making and service development.
Do we really think we can get services and education right without seeking the ideas and help of those young people we are trying to support?