Last week we had our AGM, a public meeting on abortion and a parliamentary reception kindly hosted by Baroness Massey of Darwen - a leader in advocating for young people's sexual health. Our AGM provided an opportunity for us all to reflect on the highlights of the year. It is my first full year as Chief Executive and i am proud of what the Brook Network has achieved this year - we see about 1500 young people every single day - and in a recent intelligence gathering exercise, one of our stakeholders said of young people, they come in scared and they go out skipping - what a marvellous tribute to the work of the staff.
The meeting on young women and abortion addressed a number of issues
the important balancing act of offering a platform for young women's views, supporting them to express their views safely and sometimes challenging the 'right or wrong' view on abortion that particularly younger young people can hold (and are often encouraged to hold at school through polarised debates) at the same time as advocating for them clearly and strongly
the importance of raising the bar on awareness of, and confidence in accessing contraception, and of discussing contraception when a young woman has an abortion - so they do not fall pregnant again within weeks of having an abortion
the importance of strengthening young people's current experiences of teaching and learning about abortion - bringing together health perspectives, cultural and value based perspectives and legal perspectives to provide an effective learning experience. This presentation from Education for Choice (www.efc.org.uk) demonstrated how brilliant they really are as an organisation and how much expertise they can offer those who are interested
the role of counsellors in providing supportive, positive and cost effective counselling, referral and support for young women. Brook's services in Birmingham provide this counsellor led referral and abortion service providers they work with have seen a zero rate of 'do not arrive' clients and noticed how well supported the young women are - what a brilliant success story with the potential for replication in other parts of the country.
Inspired and thoughtful after four brilliant presentations we went off to the parliamentary reception to chat, ponder, laugh, and learn about the extraordinary practice of knitting a uterus as sex education. The only unsatisfactory bit was seeing some people come and go, giving a smile and a wave and then not getting to the right side of the room before they had left. Much like any other good party i suppose.