Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Cornwall adopts the Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool *whoop whoop*

8 years ago I was invited to talk at a conference and workshop programme in Australia as an expert on young people and sexual health.  What a treat for a Cornish lad who never really knew what he wanted to do at school, let alone have hopes of being an expert in anything.

I was working at NCB and three days before going to Australia I had been appointed as CEO of Brook Central. I had spent the past year doing a series of Teenage Pregnancy and Parenthood seminars as part of the Research in Practice series. Through that series I had become increasingly worried and unsettled by the lack of confidence many professionals had about the range of 'healthy and normal' sexual development and sexual behaviours, and those we should be concerned about. The result was professionals in different disciplines making a mixed bag of referrals (or not) without any consistent standards across Local Authorities meaning some young people got excellent support and others were not. 

The trip to Australia was fascinating in all sorts of ways and I learnt a lot. Given my experience with the RIP seminars, I was most excited Family Planning Queensland had developed the most fantastic Safeguarding Traffic Light Tool which helps professionals working with children and young people to identify, assess and respond appropriately to sexual behaviours. It uses a ‘traffic light’ system, of Green, Amber and Red to increase professional’s confidence in understanding healthy and unhealthy behaviours: I knew it would be a useful tool to bring back to the UK.

Fast forward almost 8 years and imagine my delight to be the key note speaker yesterday at a conference in Cornwall (my home land) to launch the adoption of Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool by Cornwall County Council as the safeguarding assessment tool the children's workforce will be using with regard sexual behaviours.  This is a partnership endeavour between Brook and the Reducing Teenage Pregnancy Team, in particular, the coordinator, Lex Gainsbury, with the support of the Cornwall Safeguarding Children's Board and Cornwall Health and Well Being Board.  The launch marked the beginning of 70 professional training sessions to train the workforce in using the tool.

I am really excited at this pioneering approach to adopting the tool.  Director of Public Health, Felicity Owen and Lead Member for CYP Services, Councillor Andrew Wallis were clear this should be about improving consistency of education, support, assessment and referral by increasing professional confidence in understanding and assessing healthy and unhealthy behaviours. I look forward to hearing the learning and hope other Local Authorities will follow this visionary path set by Cornwall

You can find out more about the tool at If you want to discuss how we can support you to adopt the tool please contact

I want to acknowledge the kindness of Family Planning Queensland for giving permission for us to develop and adopt the Tool for the UK context, to everybody involved in the developing, piloting and evaluation of the UK tool and the Department for Education for funding its development. I also want to congratulate the vision and foresight all of the partners and the Brook team in Cornwall for adopting this tool.

As the backdrop to the tool I presented about the importance of a positive overall culture is required if we are really going to safeguard young people's sexual health and promote positive health and well being. That culture must be one where we have expectations for them and value their developing sexuality and people across a spectrum of gender and sexual identities.  Good Personal, Social and Health Education is absolutely vital to this, and that is why, in partnership with PSHE Association and Sex Education Forum we published new Supplementary Advice to the Secretary of States Statutory Sex and Relationship Education Guidance last week - you can download the SRE Advice here

An absolutely inspiring day. The final cherry on the cake for me yesterday: being on home ground Mum and Dad came and saw me speak for the first time ever. They were cute, looked after royally by Kerry in particular and having seen the team in action are now fully fledged Brook groupies. Most importantly, I can now say hand on heart we have had a proper conversation about sex.

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