Saturday, 29 December 2012

How did sexual health fare in 2012?

As is tradition since I started blogging here is my summary of the year.  This year the format is stolen from The Week magazine or Horse and Hound and doubtlessly countless other magazines that do the ‘good week for...bad week for…’ format.

It goes without saying that these are turbulent times for most - staying the same is not an option, and threats to funding, changes in policy and the shift to a much more locally determined agenda poses a number of opportunities and challenges.

So how did sexual health fare in 2012?  Here is my subjective, partial and definitely post Christmas non-scientific view based on my memory of the year (note the disclaimer) view as we gallop towards 2013.

2012 was a good year for;

1. Brook as we continued the unification programme to become bigger, bolder and better post the bringing together of the separate charities in the Brook Network and the merger with Education for Choice.  The year kicked off with a bang with our Comedy Sex fundraiser hosted by Al Murray and joined by a stellar line up of comedians.

Day in day out Brook staff continued running services and delivering innovative and pioneering education programmes, as well campaigning and lobbying activity without disruption as we undertook a three phase leadership, management, administration and corporate services restructure.  Critical to this process was the establishment of a National Staff Consultation Forum in which representatives from across Brook came together regularly to work with the Executive Team and I to ensure staff views are heard through the change process.

Our youth participation and leadership work ramped up across the organisation from Cornwall to Highland thanks to funding from V, the volunteering charity, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the O2 Think Big programme. The youth led campaign to promote positive attitudes to young people and sexuality, and particularly to improving sex and relationships education continued.

Brook in Bristol moved into stunning new premises as part of a youth hub and was part of a winning tender to deliver a range of youth services across Bristol.  In Wigan we secured the tender to continue providing, and extending services for young people in the Authority; similarly London secured the tender to deliver a major education programme over three years. Brook’s national team moved in with FPA to enhance and develop the formal collaboration which this year including sharing our Parliamentary and Policy functions as well as entering into a three year collaboration to promote sexual health with Durex.  We launched the XES - We Can’t Go Backwards ( campaign in partnership with FPA and Durex. And the FPA and Brook collaboration was highly commended in the charity partnership category at the Third Sector Awards.

Brook also launched a really important Traffic Light Tool to support professionals in understanding sexual behaviours and safeguarding young people (  The original idea was brought back from Queensland, Australia where it has been tried and tested for a number of years. We know professionals need to be able to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy behaviours to protect and empower young people, and this tool is going to become invaluable in achieving this.

Of course there were many other highlights and examples of outstanding work across Brook helping individuals and groups of young people (many examples of these are on my blog), and there were disappointments and lows, but overall it has been a good year for Brook, and you can guarantee that in 2013 we will experience the benefits of the new organisational structure which will enable us to continue with the same determined focus on promoting young people’s health and well being holistically through our clinical and support services, education and our campaigning and lobbying work.

I cannot thank all Brook staff, trustees, funders and supporters in every part of Brook enough for their commitment to making sure 2012 was a year in which Brook continued to work towards our mission of enabling young people to enjoy their sexuality without harm.

Stay tuned with Brook in 2013 by following @brookcharity and @simonablake on twitter or becoming a friend of brookcharity on Facebook.

2. Sex and relationships education/Relationships and Sex Education
First Yvette Cooper at the Labour Party Conference laid down her support for statutory SRE and said it was critical as part of the solution to sexual exploitation and the whole range of other issues.  On December 20th a cross party inquiry into unplanned pregnancy chaired by Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddMP) recommended that Relationships and sex education should be a statutory part of the curriculum.  When challenged by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight about whether the Coalition government would adopt this, Amber Rudd was clear that she intended to keep working on the issue.

The Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum tasked by Andrew Lansley with making recommendations about improving children and young people’s health also recommended that one of the core aims of the National Curriculum should be to promote health.  We eagerly await information about whether this recommendation will be adopted.

Whilst it is also true there has been some hysterical and appalling coverage of relationships and sex education by some of the press, on the whole more and more journalists are dumbfounded that government is not just getting on with making it statutory and ensuring we do not allow another generation of children and young people to grow up without fear, guilt or embarrassment about their bodies, relationships and sex.  At the same time the loud and vociferous but tiny minority against SRE sound ever more ridiculous as they make unfounded claims about SRE, for example, saying 7 year olds are being taught how to put a condom on a banana (that wouldn't be good practise would it?!) and claiming moral outrage that most sensible adults would want to teach children the names of different parts of their body including the vagina, penis and clitoris as part of the efforts to protect against abuse.

If you have not yet signed Brook’s petition for 21st Century sex and relationships education visit and show your support.

3. Contraception/access to contraception and abortion
Truly this like everything else would be in the ‘it was a very mixed year for’ category if I could have one because in some places there are increased restrictions to contraception which wrongly limit women’s choice and are economically short sighted.  But on balance I have put it in the ‘good year for’ because at last people have got really fired up about women's right to access contraception.

Contraception has oft been the Cinderella service but as news of restrictions to services hit people got angry.  For example the ‘Women of Walthomstow’ (@WoWstow) were outraged they couldn’t access services in their borough, and worked with their MP Stella Creasy to ensure women in Walthomstow could get contraception.  They were successful in their campaign and Stella Creasy won the Brook/FPA Parliamentarian of the Year award for her work.

The Advisory Group on Contraception undertook a Freedom of Information request to find out about contraceptive access and restrictions; the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health undertook an inquiry into restrictions in access to contraception, and the Amber Rudd inquiry into unplanned pregnancy emphasised the importance of ensuring all women have access to the full range of contraception.

Brook and FPA launched the XES - We Can’t Go Backwards campaign ( which provides an opportunity for people to go online and rate their experience of contraceptive and sexual health services. With so many people worried about limitations and restrictions to a whole range of services by getting people’s experiences Brook and FPA are more able to lobby with real impact.  This campaign continues into 2013 and is going to provide some really important evidence about the impact of cuts.

4. Teenage parents
The brilliant Prymface (@prymface and has become a regular writer for the Telegraph challenging stereotypes about and discrimination of young mums.  Her determination to challenge stereotypes of, and support young mums includes a regular twitter chat.  I was willingly put through my paces one Tuesday evening as a guest on the twitter chat.  Through that I was reminded yet again how young parents can be equally as brilliant as older parents as long as they have the right support, and that society’s continued demonisation of young parents doesn’t help anyone in any circumstances. Sorayah July (@calendar_girl) did a brilliant job on Newsnight in speaking sense about being a young mum (see her blog

Looking to 2013 it is important to keep the twin track focus of the teenage pregnancy strategy – preventing those teenage pregnancies where young women do not want to  become pregnant through better education and contraception, and supporting those young people who do become young parents every step of the way without unnecessary and unhelpful stigma or shame.

5. Sexual Exploitation, teenage rape, domestic violence and consent
The ability to give or refuse consent lies at the heart of positive sexual experiences and I was delighted that Amber Rudd’s inquiry emphasised the importance of educating about consent.  Consent is at the heart of all the work Brook does in clinical and education environments so it is brilliant that consent is increasingly at the forefront of policy discussions.

Also brilliant that the definition of domestic violence was extended to include young people, that the Home Office continued their work to raise awareness of violence and rape amongst young people, and that the cross government focus on violence on girls and women continued this year.

This along with the Children’s Commissioner inquiry into child sexual exploitation has really meant that sexual exploitation, rape and violence are increasingly debated and discussed in parliament and the public sphere which can only be a good thing when the issues have been so taboo for so long.

In 2013 Brook will continue to completely support the Commissioner’s inquiry and the Home Office work, ensuring that this incredibly important focus on harmful, exploitative and abusive relationships and sex is held in balance with the fact that we still need to get the fundamentals of good SRE and services young people trust consistently in place so the majority of young people who are not being exploited or hurt can be properly supported to manage, enjoy and take responsibility for their sexual health.

And 2012 was a bad year for….

1. The PSHE Review carried out by the Department for Education because we are still waiting for it.

2. Equal Marriage because of the unnecessary nastiness that has surfaced through the consultation process and beyond; because the final announcement gave so many opt outs for religious institutions and missed one vital opt in – the right of heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership.

3. Sexual Health Policy Document being prepared by the Department of Health because we hoped we would have it by now and we are still waiting for it.

4. Abortion because the Care Quality Commission undertook a completely disproportionate inspection of abortion services; because the current Health Secretary stated his belief that the abortion time limit should be twelve weeks and he was closely followed by the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and the Minister for Equalities and Women all stating their support for a reduction in the time limit to 20 weeks allegedly based on scientific evidence about foetal viability - scientific evidence that it was once again confirmed this year does not exist.

That said it wasn’t all bad for abortion this year – the ‘abortion counselling’ consultation promised by Anne Milton, then Public Health Minister was dropped, Dorries didn’t get to talk about abortion much in the jungle, and much to the aghast of anti abortion campaigners, Marie Stopes International opened the first ever fully integrated sexual health clinic in Belfast.

5. SRE Resources when Channel 4’s Living and Growing was removed from the catalogue owing to the PSHE Review.  Living and Growing has long been the centre of attention for the anti sex education lobby.  Which resource will it be next?

A reminder as you get to the end, this was a partial and subjective way of organising sexual health in 2012.  There were lots of other good bits, lots of other bad bits, and most of all 2012 was a mixed year for sexual health.  But constantly good is the steely determination of you, the people who work with young people and in sexual health to ensure that young people get the information, education, services and support they need to enjoy and take responsibility for their choices.  I look forward to working with you all in 2013.

Cheers, auld lang syne etc etc.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Trigger material for working with young people

One of the biggest luxuries of any holiday is the joy of being able to read more than one newspaper from front to back, and to read books at leisure for long periods.  I have been catching up on a backlog of The Week magazines, and as well as a couple of relatively trashy novels I have read Clare Baldings biography.

If I was still doing work with young people on a regular basis I would have been typing up and laminating a few quotes as trigger material for discussion with young people.  They are below in case they are any use to you in your work.  I would use them in a number of different ways with some, but not all groups and can be used to replace or update material in the range of sex and relationships education resources that exist.

On being the same, being different, being true to who you are and respecting difference;

In the Epilogue of Clare Balding's book 'My Animals and Other Family' p. 255 she says the following;

I have learned not to take too much notice of those who disapprove of my lifestyle choices, because I know that I was not designed to be part of the crowd.  If I am different, I make no apology, and I hope that others will have the courage to be themselves and to stand up for what they believe in, fight for those who need protection, love who they want to love, and be proud of it.      

On the importance of thinking about what we tweet, text of put on Facebook

The Week magazine said 'Bad week for Sally Bercow after Lord McAlpine confirmed that he is suing her for £50,000 over an allegedly libellous tweet'. 

I have spoken to a lot of sex educators who have said it is a struggle to connect about Facebook, sexting and tweeting without the discussion getting defensive.  By using something that is not to do with sex, but demonstrating there are potential consequences even of what we put on social media it has the potential to trigger discussion about this important issue in a safe way.

And on love and careers

Lady Gaga was quoted in the Sun Herald, Gulfport MS as saying 'Some women choose to be men, and some women choose to follow their dreams.  If you're wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn't love you anymore'.

And on marriage here is the extract from a letter to the Times, Bernard Kingston from Kent said

'.....seems to suggest that the concept of same-sex marriage undermines the significance of traditional marriage when it clearly does not.  It complements it.  Nor is the absence of procreation (in marriage) a problem....'

Friday, 21 December 2012

1,2, 3 and Breathe - what was Newsnight like?

Yesterday I spent a lot of time with people asking me what Newsnight was like.  What was Jeremy Paxman like? What do you say when the lights go down? Much more interested in many cases about Newsnight than about what we were talking about!

So, I thought  I would blog about the experience and my response to some of the content.  As a first timer on Newsnight in preparation I watched a couple episodes on You Tube.  Mistake - the ones on You Tube are the ones to be frightened of - Chloe Smith's interview.  I knew it wouldn't be like that, but might it be like the night Peter Hitchins and Russell Brand debated drug policy with rudeness and people talking over each other?

I was expecting the panel to consist of Amber Rudd MP who had chaired the inquiry which led to the recommendation that SRE be made statutory (sign our petition here, a young mother whose name I did not know at the time, Professor David Paton, from Nottingham University who is anti-abortion and has active links with the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) and myself.

Whenever I am representing Brook and young people in the media I have a degree of trepidation, and the level of this depends upon the programme, the topic, the interviewer, who you are on with etc.  So it is fair to say that I needed to do 1,2, 3 and breathe a few times throughout the evening, particularly as Paxman turned to me for the first time.

It was pouring with rain. when I left home. My hair will stick up at the back at the best of times, and best when wet.  So I arrived in 'make up' to see a peculiar brush head.  As emergency arrangements for hair, lightening of tired eyes and stubble took place I saw that Antonio Tully also from SPUC was also on the list. So now it was me, Amber Rudd, a young mother and two people with strong anti-abortion and anti SRE positions.

I went to the green room and Antonio was already there. I struggle to connect well with people who I perceive give out misinformation and perpetuate myths which is exactly what Antonio does about sex and relationships education.  So we made some small talk and then were joined by Sorayah, the young mother who the wonderful @Prymface had asked me to 'look after.'

Jeremy Paxman came into the green room, introduced himself and immediately said to Sorayah - they can look after themselves (indicating to us). He said something along the lines of  I just need you to know that I won't ask you any difficult questions and its just a conversation. Don't worry.  In his role as a journalist Paxman can be intimidating (watch the Chloe Smith interview).  I really respected and liked the approach he took coming in and seeking to reassure Sorayah.

First up, we learnt was the DG of the BBC about the Newsnight decision to drop the programme exposing Jimmy Saville as a paedophile.  Paxman and I spoke briefly about the importance of SRE - ie naming body parts, appropriate touching from an early age to help protect children against sexual abuse.  You can't always say everything you want to in a programme so here is 10 things about the programme content;

1. It was reassuring that the introductory film had the right information about teenage pregnancy and the fact that the TP strategy reduced conceptions by 25% and conceptions leading to live births by 35%.  Often this is not reported accurately.

2. It was brilliant to have young people's voices from the Respond Academy at the beginning of the programme.  You can read Brook's input to the Rudd inquiry based on the views of over 100 young people based on a memo that was sent from Amber Rudd's office following consultation with the young people from the Romance Academy

3. Paxman turned first to Sorayah who told us a bit about her story and emphasised that she has no regrets being a young mother.  This was really important because it is really easy in these short debates to demonise young parents and that is unacceptable.  Young parents across the UK can be, and are very good parents as long as they have the support they need.  The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy always had two aims - prevent pregnancies AND support young parents

4. Antonio Tully suggested that parents must be involved and be the first educator - at Brook we absolutely agree, but we do not agree that parents are airbrushed out of the picture, rather that those who feel that are often the absolute tiny minority of parents who do not agree with SRE.  The consensus in support of SRE is well established across children, parents and teachers.

5. Antonio Tully also talked about sexually explicit sex education including naming of the body parts. I absolutely agree that sex education needs to include more on relationships and emotions, but I do not agree that it is too sexually explicit and I certainly do not think that body parts are explicit - even the penis and the vagina.

6. Sorayah July was very clear that she did not have sexually explicit sex education more needed to be done about consent, about emotions - linking the biological and the mechanics with the emotions.  Amber Rudd emphasised that there needs to be lots more education about relationships to be sex in context - whether it is in Citizenship or other parts of the curriculum.

7. David Paton expressed the view that because Holland has low teenage pregnancy rates and SRE isn't compulsory that SRE isn't effective.  The evidence is very clear that SRE alone is not adequate, but SRE, services young people trust and will go to get contraception, combined with a positive and open culture where parents talk to their children about relationships and emotions, high aspirations and expectations in general and in relationships.

8. David Paton also suggested that there are high failure rates of condoms and the pill amongst young people and unfortunately this went unchallenged and without any further discussion about long acting methods of contraception that are available if more effective for a young woman.  He also talked about confusion about underage sex and the law and in the same sentence made reference to the BBC having problems with this linked to Jimmy Saville and abuse.  There is of course a world of difference between child sexual abuse and two 15 year olds having consenting sex and the two should not be discussed in the same sentence.

9. Following on from the discussion about consent, which Rudd had emphasised as critical in the report, I wanted to be clear that SRE is about young men as well as young women which was raised strongly in the report.  It is not just there to protect young women from young men.  SRE has to be meaningful for both genders. Yes, young men will often present a macho front, but behind that front there is marshmallow, fear and insecurity - young men are human after all - and we need to find creative ways to work with them in SRE their fears without exposing them to ridicule from their peers.

10. Antonio Tully talked about young people as though they are not able to make 'good' decisions.  This is an extraordinary view of young people in my view.  Kristin Luker, the great social researcher from the USA told me 'we get what we expect from young people - expect them to be irresponsible they will be, trust them to be responsible and they will be'.  We know at Brook that most manage their sexual health very very well.  Whilst many people may share the view that young people cannot make good decisions for themselves I and everyone who works at Brook are not of their number.

Finally when it comes to discussing SRE and consent in the context of teenage pregnancy it is easy to become narrowly focused.  We must forget that SRE is a right and an entitlement for everyone - gay, straight, young men or young women. SRE is about developing their confidence, their skills and enabling them to develop their own morality and autonomy.  So regardless of any arguments about evidence SRE is important.  Lets also remember the evidence shows that if you have the right context and culture coupled with SRE and services that young people absolutely trust and use, young people will have sex when they are able to enjoy and take responsibility for it, and teenage pregnancy rates will be lower - as we saw in England between 1998 and 2010.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to go onto Newsnight to talk about SRE because a cross party inquiry has recommended it is made statutory. Now the really difficult bit - making sure it damn well happens.  As Amber Rudd said the government hasn't agreed to make it statutory yet, but she has only just started.  For those of you like me who have been round this loop before, it may not feel like it, but then we must push with all the enthusiasm as each and every time we have tried before.  

You can read the Rudd report of the cross party inquiry into unplanned pregnancy and link to the Newsnight on Iplayer is also here for the next few days

Almost forgot what happens when the lights went down, we all breathed a sigh of relief, reached for our water went to get up too quickly, pretended we weren't trying to get up, were told to stay where we were because the camera was still on us, and then we laughed and talked about wondering what happens when the lights go down.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Changed my blog address

I am now blogging from and have just posted a blog about the Cross Party Inquiry on Unplanned Pregnancy, The Morning After led by Amber Rudd MP.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Hurrah: some sense on statutory sex and relationships education

Just back from Newsnight talking about the Cross Party Inquiry into unplanned pregnancy chaired by @AmberRuddMP.  @_calendargirl, a young mum herself was fantastically articulate and the introductory film in Hastings and young people from the Respond Academy was factually accurate about the success of the teenage pregnancy strategy and enabled young people's views to be heard at the outset of the item.

Will blog some more about Newsnight tomorrow but for now some more about the Morning After Report which will be published on the website tomorrow;

I am absolutely delighted that the inquiry has recommended that sex and relationships education is made statutory with a really strong focus on relationships.  For decades young people have been telling us that SRE is 'too little, too late and too biological (phrase stolen from my time at the Sex Education Forum over 13 years ago) and that it does not focus enough on relationships, emotions and real life dilemmas.

This report is timely given that we are still awaiting the outcomes of the government's review of Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education and the separate National Curriculum review.  Young people at Brook submitted a report to the PSHE Education Consultation in November 2011 which identified only 6% of young people said they received most of their relationships information from SRE teachers and 15% said they learn most about relationships from one or both parents.

Some real myths about pregnancy were also revealed including 59% had heard a woman couldn't get pregnant if the man withdraws before ejaculating and 58% that a woman couldn't get pregnant during their period. Their top recommendations for developing 21st Century SRE emphasise that the Rudd Inquiry Report is right to say we need to do more about relationships.  Their recommendations included SRE addressing body confidence, love, how to treat a boy or girlfriend, whether they were normal and how to behave in a relationship.  You can read the full report here

And you can join over 3000 people by signing the young people's petition for 21st Century SRE here

As part of protecting young people well, the report sets out the need to teach about consent and protect young people from sexual exploitation.  Good education must enable both young men and young women to develop skills and confidence in asking, giving and refusing consent. Through our clinical and support services, as well as our education work Brook understands how critical developing understanding and changing attitudes towards consent is to eradicating gender based and sexual violence including rape.  Our sexual behaviours Traffic Light safeguarding tool at funded by the Department for Education is an important new tool to work with young people on healthy sexual behaviours.

The Coalition Government has been resistant to making PSHE statutory until now.  The policy direction remains that schools should be freed up from the pressures of a crowded curriculum. Brook urges government to consider this report and accept its recommendations.  And if yet again government decides not to make PSHE Education statutory my question will continue to be this;

We know that good quality SRE is an entitlement for all and has an important role in protecting children and young people from abuse, exploitation and rape, unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections so how will government fulfil its responsibilities and ensure that all children and young people receive that education as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which the UK signed up to in 1989? 

The Rudd Inquiry report (The Morning After) also set out the importance of building on the success of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy which ended in 2010 achieving a 24.3% decline in under 18 conceptions, and a 35% reduction in conceptions leading to live births.  The report makes a number of other important recommendations including;

  • ensuring equal access to contraceptive services including Long Acting Reversible Contraception 
  • better training for professionals including health visitors to provide contraceptive advice 
  • the importance of engaging young men in education and sexual health decision making
  • the importance of effective commissioning in the new Health System and the role of third sector in promoting sexual health
Young people from Brook contributed evidence to the inquiry and the report from young people can be found here

The report is published.  We will be working to ensure the recommendations are implemented.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Young People's Participation at Brook - our journey so far

Brook is on an exciting journey to become the best we can possibly be at involving young people. I am completely committed to young people participating at every single level.  It is essential that a young people's organisation is strongly driven and influenced by young people who we are working with and for. As a primary aged girl in key stage one said when I worked at NCB and was preparing implementation guidance on participation for the then Department for Children Schools and Families 'its more than just listening, you have to listen and then you have to act'.

Having moved from a Network of 16 charities to a single unified organisation, with strong support from the board of trustees, we are aiming to build on the best practice that already existed to create a positive and open culture of participation and youth leadership.

We have been making lots of progress over recent years with youth led campaigning creating the Big Issues Don't have to be a Big Deal campaign about body image and which campaigns for 21st Century SRE. We have young trustees on the board, peer educators, advisors, young people involved in recruitment of staff at all levels, mystery shoppers and so on so there was already an enormous amount of work to build on.

From a strong starting point, we prioritised fundraising to establish a lead participation role within Brook to lead and champion our participation work, so we were absolutely delighted to receive funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to do just that.

One of the young women volunteering in Oldham spoke at our Annual General Meeting. Tara has agreed to have her speech published here;

“Before starting Brook, I was a stay at home mum and losing all confidence to go back to college or even work. I was really struggling to think what I wanted to do with my life. Then I saw a poster for Brook advertising that they wanted volunteers to work on a campaign. As soon as I seen it straight away I was eager to apply. I thought it was suitable as it involved working with young people and with me being a young mum I thought I could be good at giving advice. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do in life but volunteering for Brook has really boosted my confidence again and has helped me want to do something in life. Even though it’s early days with Brook we have a lot of excitement coming our way. We are currently working on our social action project which is about bullying. We will be running a cafĂ© and asking the public about what bullying means to them and what affects it can have on people. Also we just want to raise people’s awareness on bullying. Volunteering for Brook has helped me work really well in a team and we are all really looking forward to start our project.”

And Naomi's AGM speech about participation and her work at Brook is below;

"Hi, I’m Naomi Sheppard and I’m the Participation Lead for Brook.

"Having become One Brook is a fantastic opportunity for us to celebrate young people’s involvement and build on our successes around participation. Earlier this year we were successful in our funding application to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation who are funding Brook’s participation project for two years in order to build a culture of participation within the new Brook organisation.

"The key aims of the project are to:

  • increase opportunities for young people to influence policy and practice on sexual health
  • increase the skills and confidence of staff to promote and support young people’s participation in all areas of their work
  • increase the involvement of young people, particularly from priority minority groups such as disabled young people.

"We recognise the need for robust structures to provide genuine opportunities for young people to influence policy and decision-making at all levels of the organisation.

"With extensive changes to health commissioning there is a danger that user engagement will go missing in the change. Working within a current climate of major service redesign locally, regionally and nationally it is crucial that young people have a voice to influence, to ensure services of the future meet their needs.

"So far this year, young people have been actively involved in shaping Brook, by their involvement in the Tier 1 and 2 recruitment processes and now the Middle Management and Administration restructure.

"They have continued to shape and take ownership of Brook services via mystery shopping, peer education programmes, as campaign and outreach volunteers, and as Trustees on the Board. We have continued to work creatively with young people to ensure that their voices are heard, including supporting them to create short films, pod casts, posters, leaflets and blogs.

"Through our partnership with the O2 Think Big foundation, we are in the process of supporting young people to deliver 15 social action projects across Brook, focusing on issues ranging from breastfeeding support for young mums, anti-bullying, legal rights for Trans* young people, and accessibility for young people with disabilities.

"There is also the V24/24 programme which was successfully delivered in London, Liverpool and Oldham, providing a work experience placement for 24 weeks to young people who are viewed by society as the most vulnerable, offering key opportunities and tailored personal development plans to support them to achieve their individual goals.

"The young people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with this year have completely shattered society’s negative stereotype of young people. They are hard working, motivated, enthusiastic and passionate about young people’s rights around sexual health. And on that note I’d like to hand the floor over to some of our young volunteers so that they can tell you more about their social action projects and achievements themselves."

So back to me: I am proud of our progress so far, and am energised and excited by how much more we can do to work with young people to promote and protect sexual rights, to improve sexual health and wider health and well being.  It is a journey that will continue and continue and its a journey I am very much looking forward to - I am sure there will be some white knuckle roller coaster moments and I hope some times we will be able to sit back and enjoy the view and most of all I hope that young people's involvement will help us kick up the dust when we need to and shout from the roof tops about young people's rights.