Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Brook in Milton Keynes is 20 years old

Today was a very proud day for Brook. The Brook service in Milton Keynes was 20 years old and today they opened new premises. As I arrived for the launch, my first thought was wow - it was a bright entrance and Brook's logo proudly across the entrance. The building is not on the high street, and it is not down a back alley either. It seemed to be just the right balance - absolutely clear to young people that we respect their desire for somewhere discreet AND that sex is not something dirty and round the back, and sexual health services are there as an important part of the community.

I was asked to speak at the launch and as I was preparing to do so, I was remembering my early experiences of Brook at Milton Keynes over the last ten or fifteen years. My first was meeting one of Milton Keynes' earliest staff Sue on a training course when I had just started working with young people in sexual health. I had never heard anyone talk so passionately, fondly and warmly about young people before. I remember it now so clearly. It made a real impact. And it is what i have learnt over the past three years makes Brook people special in my eyes, and more importantly in the eyes of the hundreds of young people who trust Brook staff day in day out to help them, advise them and support them. The magic ingredient is genuine care.
Then as assessor for Milton Keynes Healthy Schools Programme I saw tremendous partnership working between Brook, Relate and Healthy Schools to get sex and relationships education on the agenda in schools. Respectful partnership working using the skills of the different partners to best effect. And then between appointment and start date I met my Chair for champagne (and lunch). He told me I needed to talk to Jackie because she was running an excellent service, and i needed to visit Brook in Milton Keynes because they had a model that was replicable and needed replicating. Lots. And over the last three and a half years I have seen excellent replicable work being done with boys, in c card scheme, in schools and healthy schools, in colleges, with the chlamydia screening programme and much much more within Milton Keynes. And as evidence of that brilliance, there were so many people from MK at the launch today, partners, stakeholders and supporters from both the statutory and voluntary sector. And over the last two years Brook in Milton Keynes has become Brook East of England as they have won contracts and set up services in Luton and Bedfordshire.

Back to the building, one of the things that really bothers me about many health service buildings is they are a bit dank and dingy, and in need of a bit of health promotion themselves. And in an increasingly consumerist society where you go to shops and get an experience rather than just a clothes rail, we need to make sure that health levels up to fashion or the best computer game store, otherwise we send a message, that four stripes on your shoe, or getting the new X box is more valuable than health, and that to me is a wrong message to give. And it is a message that this building, 624 South Fifth Street certainly isn't going to give young people.

As I said in my speech at the launch, I have no idea exactly who the people were involved in making this building happen, but it was a 7 year journey to get to there, and on behalf of all the young people who have used and will continue to use Brook's services in Milton Keynes thank you to each and every one of them.

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