Thursday, 26 May 2011

Guest blog from Jules Hillier, Brook’s Interim Deputy Chief Exec

Today, I’m handing over to Jules Hillier, Brook’s Interim Deputy Chief Exec, who is guest-blogging her thoughts on the presence of Life on the Sexual Health Forum.

Jules says,

“Like many, my first response to the news that Life had been given a place on the Government’s Sexual Health Forum was a sharp intake of breath and a rush of anger. There’s so much history between the pro-choice and the anti-choice movement and much of it is bitter and personal.

Anyone who’s been on the sharp end of anti-choice campaigning tactics – the call I had when I was pregnant saying they hoped my baby died of a sex infection, having to draft ‘parcel bomb policies’ to protect staff in the 90s, the name-calling (we’re baby-killers, pornographers and child sex advocates, don’t you know), the intimidation of young people accessing services - will struggle with the idea of sharing a platform with any anti-choice organisation.

When my first flush of anger subsided, I reflected for a while to see if I could find a less emotional reaction, and I thought about Brook’s work. Here, through our education work, we aim to help young people to set, understand and respect boundaries, to develop and hold values, to negotiate relationships and to build a level of self esteem and self confidence which will enable them to navigate whatever life and relationships throw at them.

We do all this, and more, not just because we are passionate, committed and motivated to improve young people’s lives, but also because we have the evidence which tells us that this work, combined with our clinical, advice, information and counselling services will make a difference.

It would be a shame, wouldn’t it, I told myself, wagging my finger, if we weren’t able to adopt the same approach to difficult situations as adults that we aim to help young people develop through our work.

So, I took a deep breath, thought about the 260,000 young people who come to us for help and support every year, thought about the 600 talented and committed staff who work with them and thought about all the other excellent organisations in the field who make a difference to young people’s lives every day. And I realised that all that good work will continue regardless of the make up of a government forum on which Brook still has a confident, values driven, evidence based position. And from that position, we can ensure that the voices of young people are put front and centre and their needs are always paramount, just as we have always done.”

Monday, 16 May 2011

Just Love Safe - National Condom Week 2011

Another year has gone by quickly, too quickly, the arrival of National Condom Week is testament to that. Last year I wrote this;

'I am starting to measure my years in how quickly national condom week comes around - this is now the fourth NCW since I have been at Brook, and it seems inconceivable that it is a year since I was setting the challenge to answer condoms to any questions you are asked, just for a laugh, and to see people's face as you do so. Over the last four years, this challenge has been met with extreme reactions - at the one end, it has been suggested I should be punched and at the other people have emailed to say it has made them laugh and the other person bemused, and others have said it stimulated some really interesting conversation. Try it and see what response you get. I take no responsibility if you get the punch.'

And, I challenge you again this year - my fifth NCW since being at Brook - to see how many times you can talk to people about condoms during NCW. Talk about them even when it doesn't make sense to talk about them, find out and tell people facts about condoms - there are lots of them - it doesn't matter which facts, just find ways to talk about them.

This year NCW theme is about protecting yourself this summer. Supported by boy band, JLS. And Durex in conjunction with the JLS Foundation and Brook has launched a Just Love Safe survey - - do the survey and have your chance to win tickets to meet the band backstage or win an ipad.

Join us in campaigning for a sex: positive society at

Follow us on twitter

Become a friend on Facebook @brookcharity

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Radio 4 Woman's Hour yesterday

I was interviewed yesterday morning on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour about abstinence/sex and relationships education and the ten minute rule motion by Nadine Dorries MP last week.

I highlighted how important it was that we listen to what young people tell us. For well over a decade young people (both boys and girls) have been saying that they want to learn more about emotions, and more about relationships and real life situations.

The evidence about what works supports their view, it’s time to stop the circular debate and for government to provide a clear mandate and ensure the mechanisms are in place so that teachers can get on with the delivery of high quality sex and relationships education.

Any debate that polarises views about SRE is unhelpful when there is a broad consensus amongst children, parents and professionals about what needs to be delivered. It’s time to recognise that abstinence education has been so discredited by the evidence that it’s hardly worthy of debate.

The link to listen to the interview again is: and the piece starts about 12 and a half minutes in.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Lies, misinformation and circular debates

This week gave me another reason to believe Brook's sex: positive campaign is vital. More lies, more misinformation and more circular debate - this time about sex and relationships education.

On Wednesday a 10 minute rule Bill brought forward by Nadine Dorries which was voted to pass to second reading. The 10 minute rule Bill proposed providing girls aged 13 - 16 with lessons on abstinence. This completely disregards what children and young people have been telling us for decades - sex and relationships education needs to include more about relationships, real life dilemmas, emotions, peer pressure and influence, gender, sexuality etc etc.

I agree completely with Chris Bryant that it is ludicrous legislation and thankfully I agree with John Smeaton from SPUC who noted there is a slim chance of it going anywhere at the next stage.

But of course it did provide another liberal dusting of misinformation and myth about what teachers do in the classroom. It is disrespectful of and can frighten those doing a good job helping children and young people navigate their way through a sexualised world. Given that we know providing good quality SRE is part of the solution, not part of the problem we really don't want to undermine people's confidence.

The premise underpinning the Bill is wrong on many levels. It is wrong because it disregards the broad consensus amongst parents, children and professionals who agree that we should be providing comprehensive sex and relationships education in schools. It is wrong because it ignores completely the evidence that discredits abstinence only education and it ignores the evidence that shows comprehensive sex and relationships education helps delay first sex and ensures young people use contraception when they do choose to have sex.

And it is wrong because it feeds the myth making and fear machine that prevents real progress in this area. I have never seen or heard of 7 year olds being taught how to put a condom on a banana in the classroom. Have you? And if I did I would think it was inappropriate. Would you?

Finally it is wrong because it suggests we don't know that learning about saying yes, saying no, saying maybe, learning about consent and pressure, individual choice and autonomy and developing self respect, confidence and communication skills is a fundamental part of sex and relationships education at the secondary school.

A small minority of people may support this Bill. I, like most people, am not of their number. Are you? So to the teachers, youth workers and others doing excellent sex and relationships education thank you for the work that you do day in day out to help support our children and young people. Most sensible adults appreciate the work you do enormously.

Pledge for the sex:positive campaign at

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Why it's so important to listen to young people - latest blog from our young volunteers

One of our young volunteers has published a fantastic blog on the recent tackling teen pregnancy seminar and the ‘sexualisation’ of young people.

Follow their Sex:Positive campaign on Twitter @besexpositive and pledge your support (free) for a Sex:Positive future