Friday, 18 March 2011

Red Noses and two weeks to go

I write this watching Comic Relief - getting upset and inspired at the same time and wishing I could do so much more to make a difference. They have just shown the EastEnders clip from last night about Whitney and sexual exploitation. Excellent that EastEnders are tackling head on another important issue. This provides a real opportunity to start the conversations that will ensure young people and adults are aware of sexual exploitation, the process of grooming and how to get help if they are concerned. Brook has a number of projects across the UK working with young people at risk of or involved in sexual exploitation including a project funded by Comic Relief. And we do a lot of training for and working collaboratively with professionals to protect and support young people at risk. The real risk over the coming months and years is that funding for this vital work with some of the most vulnerable young people being exploited through prostitution will not get the support they need. Two weeks today - Friday 1st April - Brook moves from a Network of independent charities to become one organisation. This week I have been continuing visits to Centres and have really enjoyed talking to a number of staff and trustees about the work they are doing, the opportunities to improve young people's sexual health and the challenges in such a fast changing external environment. I have also learnt a lot more than I expected to about Jersey Law this week. Amazing what you learn as you go through change programmes. From Jersey laws I turned to effective organisational decision making. I really recommend Decide and Deliver - 5 steps to breakthrough performance in your organization published by Bain and Company.

On Tuesday I spoke at the Westminster Forum session on Teenage Pregnancy. Alison Hadley did a great presentation on the lessons on reducing teenage pregnancy from the last decade. The key messages are simple - sex and relationships education at home, school and the community and access to young people friendly services are vital. Alison also reminded us that to prevent pregnancy those young people who are having sex need to have access to and use contraception. Lisa Hallgarten from Education for Choice (; @EdforChoice) challenged the notion that we can't talk about sex and relationships in this country - many people can and do, very very well, day in day out.

Lucy and Chris, two of the young volunteers working with Brook, who, despite some nervousness, did brilliantly and talked eloquently about the need to sort out education and services for young people. They challenged us all to think carefully about the messages we give young people about sex.

The meeting was an interesting and lively discussion. I was rather surprised when two delegates took a view about the V team's sex: positive campaign without having looked at it. The suggestion that we call the campaign 'relationships: positive' somewhat missed the point in my view. I encouraged them to look at the campaign pledges ( before deciding what they thought about it. I hope they have because the pledges make sense.

Wednesday I was pleased to be at the first of the Department of Health's Sexual Health Forum set up to advise the Department of Health on sexual health and HIV. I look forward to taking young people's voices and the experience of Brook to inform sexual health policy over the coming months. Today I met with colleagues from the Institute of Ideas and the National Chlamydia Screening Programme before going to the National Audit Office to discuss their forthcoming work on the Compact.

Tomorrow over 20 clinicians from across Brook come together for a conference and I look forward to spending the morning with them. Sexual violence and exploitation is on their agenda. Its a really important issue - well done Comic Relief for bringing the issue into our consciousness.

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