Cornwall Council launches ‘traffic light’ tool for positive relationships and healthy sexual development

Cornwall has always been an area of innovation and doing things first, so it is hardly surprising when Cornwall Council  becomes the first local authority in the country to formally adopt a new “traffic light tool” designed to help children and young people to adopt positive relationships and healthy sexual development.

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Me giving my support to the tool, and how it is important to have good RSE in Cornwall.

Brook’s Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool, adapted with permission from Family Planning Queensland (2012), with initial funding from the Department of Education, uses a “traffic light” approach to help practitioners working with children and young people distinguish healthy sexual development from potentially harmful behaviours. 

The tool,  formally launched today at a special conference funded by the Council and held at Truro’s Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre, uses “green” to reflect healthy development; “amber” to identify a behaviour outside healthy sexual behaviour and “ red” to highlight a cause for immediate concern. With very little guidance currently available for professionals, the development of the Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool has been warmly welcomed by both national and local agencies and professional bodies working with vulnerable children and young people.

It is a real pleasure to work alongside Brook.  As Brook helps young people to make informed, active choices about their personal and sexual relationships so they can enjoy their sexuality without harm. They are just one of the organisation in Cornwall who work together to give better advice and guidance to our young people. The CEO of Brook, Simon Blake has blogged HERE

A short film made by young people talking about relationships, sexual health and sex is HERE

I am struck by people’s willingness to talk about the weather – to the point it is a national obsession; but relationships, sexual heath and sex are for many still taboo subjects – only to be spoken in hushed voices.  We have a culture in which we don’t talk about growing up, relationships and sexual health , sex gets swept under the carpet; teenage pregnancies and STIs rise and sexual assaults go unreported.

Young people are telling us loud and clear that they want to hear more from us about growing up, healthy relationships and positive sexual health. This is not just from professionals, but more importantly from their parents. Peer research undertaken in 2013 found young people in Cornwall wanted more information on services, relationships, resisting pressure and how to say no. 

If we don’t talk to our children and young people about relationships and sex they will go looking for this information else where, potentially from inaccurate, distorted and indeed harmful sources.

It is a myth our young people do not want to talk to their parents, but we have to make sure parents have the right information with the ability to ask questions themselves. As we know that children whose parents are comfortable talking to them about relationships and sexual health are less likely to participate in risky sexual behaviour. So our work should not end with proactively supporting children, we should be proactively supporting parents and carers to play this vital role in their children’s development.

Simon Blake - CEO of Brook; Felicity Owens - Director of Public Health, Lex- Teenage pregnacy co-ordinator; Me; young people and Ed and Trudi from Brook and Kate from Children's Services.

Simon Blake – CEO of Brook; Felicity Owens – Director of Public Health, Lex- Teenage pregnancy co-ordinator; (Me); young people Trudi and Ed from Brook and Kate (2nd right) from Children’s Services.

Evidence tells us that good relationship and sex education from a range of sources is a protective factor against unplanned pregnancy and STIs. Lets also dispel the common myth of young people ‘all at it.’ This is not true, as the age at which people first have sex in the UK is 16 (and above)years old. This figure has changed very little over the past decade (NATSAL 2013).

Embedding positive relationships and sexual health into our understanding of wellbeing for children and young people is vital for their happiness both now and in the future.  By Implementing this tool across Cornwall will give practitioners the skills and resources they need to support our children and young people’s healthy development as well as to respond effectively to risks.

It is our collective responsibility to make sure all children and young people develop the skills and knowledge to make positive choices now and in the future.  This is why the Brook Traffic Light System is so important to help identify risky behaviour early, and not demonize those perfectly normal actions of our young people.

The young people today are not only the adults of the future but the parents of the future.

Further information on Brook can be found HERE.

Brook services provide free and confidential sexual health information, contraception, pregnancy testing, advice and counselling, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and outreach and education work, reaching over 280,000 young people every year.  www.brook.org.uk. Ask Brook helpline 0808 802 1234.

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