Saturday, 5 March 2011

Brook conference and awards 2011

On Thursday Brook held our 4th Annual Conference and Awards and many people told me how stimulating and motivating it was. It was from my perspective the best one yet, and the team at Brook who organised the whole event were just brilliant. The theme of the conference was young people, sex and consent. Chaired by Professor Roger Ingham, we had an excellent range of speakers and workshop facilitators, including the V team of volunteers from Brook responsible for and Anne Milton, Minister for Public Health. Three of the V team talked about their research into young people and consent - as always they took a deep breath and performed brilliantly in front of two hundred delegates. Anne Milton talked about the forthcoming sexual health strategy and the DH sexual health forum which will advise the DH in developing the strategy - I look forward to taking the views of young people and professionals who work with them to that table. In the Q and A, Minister was asked about statutory sex and relationships education. She rightly said statutory does not mean quality. I wholeheartedly agree with that assertion - statutory SRE does however provide a lever for systemic change and I question the viable alternatives to achieve the step change that children and young people tell us they need. None of us want SRE to become a tick box exercise and discussion will continue about statutory SRE and improving quality - but the lesson is clear - don't use statutory as short hand for quality. The policy discussions must run side by side. Minister also commented that more progress needed to be made on reducing teenage pregnancy and improving sexually transmitted infection rates. None of us would disagree with that. Both in the session and at coffee, the challenge back from delegates was how this will be achieved with the level and depth of cuts currently underway. Anne Milton was clearly interested in and committed to sexual health - when asked she was clear that there will be no 'Just Say No' policy discourse under her watch. She was also very clear that young people must of course be supported to develop the confidence and skills to say no to sex. Later presentations included; a young woman who had received excellent SRE and said it was vital guidance that helped her understand her choices - the passion and committment of her teacher who also spoke was so evident. A direct challenge to those who say SRE cannot be done well in school. It clearly can and must be. some evidence from the research and a focus on young men and young women, and it was clear from all the presentations that consent is an important issue that we need to talk about more and more in a positive context - helping young people to develop boundaries and a clear understanding of their right to consent, as well as the skills and confidence to assert their sexual rights, including this fundamental of all them - the right to consent. The Awards were begun because whilst you can win an award for pretty much everything else, there were no awards to celebrate the excellent work that people, young and old, are doing with young people on sexual health. We were delighted to welcome our hosts Marc Elliot and Johnny Partridge (Christian and Syeed in Eastenders) who were brilliant - even though I had to hold my breath through their opening speech as they had promised me it was a 'bit blue' they made me laugh. JLS who are such great champions for young people's sexual health joined us for the evening and presented the Brook/JLS young person of the year award. Their foundation, the JLS Foundation launched at the same time as the Durex JLS range of condoms made its first donation to Brook recently and we are grateful for their financial as well as moral support. Tracey Cox, Zoe Margolis and Carrie Quinlan strong ambassadors and supporters of Brook presented the other awards. The awards winners were;

Sufyaan Patel - Brook/JLS young person of the year

David Bigglestone - UK Sexual Health Professional of the Year

Duke of Edinburgh and Young Parents Project - London Borough of Hounslow

Jennifer Hill from Brook East of England - Brook Employee of the Year

Brook Northern Ireland - Brook innovation of the year

A stunning performance from Heart n Soul concluded the evening (

The sponsors of both the conference and awards are absolutely vital in making the evening happen and I am grateful for their ongoing support. My evening was made when a young person who used to volunteer in the national office and her father described to me that working at Brook had been a major turning point in her life.

I finished for the weekend exhausted and very proud. -------------------------------------- help create a sex positive future ; follow us on twitter on @brookcharity, @simonablake and @BeSexPositive

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