Monday, 29 December 2008

If I was a boy

Well I am yes. And here I am talking about Beyonce's new single. When I used to do sex education with young men music was a really helpful tool to stimulate discussion. Beyonce's single 'If I were a boy' is brilliant as a song to raise gender roles and expectations as well as responsibilities and communication within relationships. If you have the facilities to watch the video with young people it is a good discussion starter too - here is the link

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Have fun. Be careful

Brook has launched a new poster campaign to raise awareness of the December and January peak in teenage conceptions amongst young people.  I think the creative team have done a brilliant job.  The first poster is on now and the second one for 2009 will be available from 2nd January 

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Some facts behind the statistics

There were stories in some of the press about increases in teenage conception rates in 2007. The claim that the rises are a result of failed attempts to reduce teenage conceptions through sex education and easy access to contraception.
The latest data shows that the slight increase is from pregnancies that have led to abortions, not teenage births, which shows these pregnancies were unintended and contraceptive services like Brook are needed even more than ever.
We also know the rise corresponds with tight NHS spending, when community contraceptive clinics were cut - a stark warning as we enter an economic downturn which will likely see a reduction in spending on public services over the coming years.

In December and January every year for the last five years there has been a peak in teenage conceptions. At this time clinics are closed and some young people will find it harder to get to services. It is important to let young people know this peak in conception rates, and to remind young people that if they are choose to have sex this Christmas, they must use contraception.

At the same time they must know when and where services including pharmacies are open over the festive period. It may sound obvious - but as service providers we sometimes forget the little things - my local shop has had a sign in the window telling me when they are closed, and when they are open for at least three weeks. If you run a service, have you done the same?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

X factor final and articles in the news

There are two relevant articles in the papers today.  The News of the World interviews with a young mum who has won a Prince's Trust Young Educational Achiever award.  Her successes and her determination are justly rewarded.  She is quoted as saying 'it drives me mad knowing that girls purposely get pregnant just to scrounge benefits'.   There is no evidence that this is the case in the overwhelming majority of cases.  It is a myth that must be busted.

The second article in the Times which discusses the provision of contraception over the counter in pharmacists, helpfully reminded us that whilst the policy lens focuses on young people's sexual activity and teenage pregnancy, the majority of unintended pregnancies are amongst older women.  

And on a related tangent, I like many others enjoyed the X factor final.  I appreciate the genuine warmth and support which Simon Cowell demonstrates for young people - I like Simon's attitude to young people.  In the early rounds when Rachel who made the final 12 auditioned, reflecting on her audition, Simon said 'too many young people don't get a second chance in this country' - I agree with him entirely - and if you don't agree with me, just think would we allow 'mosquito' devices to disburse any other group in our society?   

When I was doing work on sex and relationships education in young offender institutes, I heard time and again, young people telling us that 'resettlement' was tough and they didn't get the support they need.  

I am really pleased Alexandra Burke won - her duet with Beyonce made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  Public policy on teenage pregnancy emphasises the importance of raising aspirations, having goals and dreams for the future.  Alexandra told us many (many) times about the fact her dream had come true.  I just hope the X factor team have prepared her and her family for life in the public eye.  Some articles in the papers today, and I am sure there are many versions of the same story, written as truth, were evidence that it won't always be an easy ride.  I just hope those stories didn't take the edge off her moment.  

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Brook's celebrations

Last Thursday, Brook held a public meeting, our annual general meeting and parliamentary reception.  The focus of our public meeting was our education work.  Three colleagues from across the network described their education work.

Colleagues described;

work with young women who are being sexually exploited.  Describing the creative work of Brook staff supporting young people, challenging public and professional perceptions of 'child prostitution' and making a real difference to the individual lives of young people.  Concluding with a poem written by a young woman, from a collection of work called Invisible Lives, I am sure I was not the only person whose hair stood up on the back of their necks.

multi-disciplinary training that has been carried out skilling up professionals to feel more confident talking about sex and sexual health, and building links with specialist services.  

work with young people, including a young gay group, a group for young women and a group for young men that they have developed in response to young people's express needs.

Learning about the education work kicked off the start of a reflective and celebratory day. Summarising the year I reminded people that we see 1500 young people every day at Brook - in 2007/8 we had contact with over 205,000 young people.  I reminded colleagues that when we did research into young people's experiences of Brook, they told us the absolutely best thing about us is our staff, the people that work tirelessly for young people day in day out.

And as we move into our 45th year, the need for Brook's education, clinical services and advocacy is as great as ever before - we must continue to emphasise the importance of young people having trust in services and particularly in confidentiality.  We threaten our progress in reducing teenage pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted infection rates if we allow that trust to be undermined.

Baroness Massey of Darwen, Brook's honorary president, hosted our parliamentary reception in the evening, and paid tribute to the people, our staff and partners, that make Brook, who we are, the leading sexual health agency for young people.  

Both inspiring and tiring in equal measures, I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Christmas parties

have already started, and for many young people this is a time of partying, lazing around, seeing friends and enjoying themselves.  I was talking a young woman about the yearly peak in conception rates in December and January each year.  She gave an interesting response - well without monday morning there isn't the same urgency to get things sorted.  With a bit more pushing she explained that despite the fact she would know she had homework at the beginning of the holidays, she would put it off to the end, and she thinks sometimes if people have sex without contraception, or their condom splits, they can't put it off anymore once it comes to monday.

Without mondays there isn't a rush.  Anecdotal and n=1 is never a good way to make policy, but if I think back about how I managed my life when I was young, and indeed now,  the urgency of monday is definitely an interesting idea.