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Brook has never been more determined to improve access to sexual health and wellbeing services, especially for young people and those who face additional barriers.
The Commission on Young Lives report Hidden in Plain Sight warns that social care, education, family support and children’s mental health systems are failing thousands of vulnerable young people, costing taxpayers billions, diminishing life chances, and putting some teenagers at risk of grooming, exploitation and serious violence. Furthermore, over the last eight years two thirds of local authorities in England have cut their spending on sexual and reproductive health and contraception budgets have been halved.
Increasing accessibility remains one of our core strategic priorities for 2023-2026. You can read more about our plans in our new strategy.
We know through our 1:1 wellbeing work that neurodivergent young people are more likely to experience mental health issues. Additionally, rising numbers of diagnoses and consequent long waiting lists have left many neurodivergent young people without the specific support they need. With an estimated one in seven people being neurodivergent, it’s essential that our services are designed with them in mind.
To better understand access needs and effectively co-produce better services and resources, we have established a local neurodivergent participation group and an internal neurodivergence and neurodiversity working group as well as having representation from a neurodivergent young person on our Service Development governance committee.
Through our annual consultation we engaged neurodivergent and neurodiverse young people aged 16-25 years across the country to gain insight on the ways they might choose to access a Brook service.
The anonymous findings from this consultation will help us to shape and improve Brook’s clinical services for neurodivergent and neurodiverse young people.
Adolescence can be a difficult time for any young person but can be particularly challenging for those who are neurodivergent. That’s why through our 22/23 small grants programme we have distributed £50,000 to local community-based projects that improve the wellbeing of neurodivergent young people. Find out more about the beneficiaries and how our grants will make a difference.
As part of our Ruby Rare Talks series, Brook ambassador Ruby Rare was joined by sex educator, activist and author Milly Evans to discuss neurodiversity and the way it can impact sex and relationships. Milly shares their experience of being diagnosed with ADHD and autism, and what they think can be done to improve the accessibility of sex education and clinical services.
Brook has continued its successful partnership with the Cardiff Healthy Schools Team to provide period dignity education for secondary schools across Cardiff. The focus is to help young people understand body changes and periods, introducing them to a range of period products and ensuring young people can access products for free.
In March 2023, we joined forces with Lil-Lets to deliver the Big Period Lesson Live. Aimed at years 6 and 7, the 60-minute lesson supported young people to better understand puberty, body changes and periods. A staggering 57,600 teachers and students tuned in to the live broadcast, from more than 650 schools, making it by far our biggest live lesson. You can watch the lesson on demand now.
At Lil-Lets, we have a passion for education and ensuring menstruators have access to the information they need to make their own life choices. This is why partnering with Brook on the Big Period Lesson was the perfect synergy for our brand. The success of this has allowed Lil-lets & Brook to educate thousands of students, teachers and consumers whilst still equipping them with the confidence that everyone deserves.”
Hayley Bauristhene, Marketing Lead Lil-Lets, UK
In July 2022, we launched our new young people’s services in Camden and Islington. In partnership with Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, we are providing free sexual health and wellbeing services to under 25s in LBs Camden & Islington as well as RSE support for professionals.
In summer 2022, Brook was at the forefront of the national response to the monkeypox outbreak, delivering the vaccine in our all-age Southend and Blackburn services. In 2023, Brook allocated core capital funding to design and develop new clinical premises in partnership with Southend Council. This new shopping centre based clinic offers innovative sexual health, education and wellbeing services for the local community.
We continue to work closely with communities that face access barriers, helping educate and empower people of all ages to take charge of their sexual health. In Southend-on-Sea and the London Boroughs of Barnet, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, we deliver HIV prevention programmes aimed at combatting stigma, normalising testing and reducing late diagnosis. This provision combines face-to-face community-based outreach with digital health promotion campaigns and in 22/23 we reached more than 54,700 people.
Our clinical services are continuously rated highly by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), our commissioners and our services users. In 2023, eight of our clinical services were awarded the I Want Great Care Certificate of Excellence in recognition of outstanding care and positive reviews.
“Staff treated patients with compassion and kindness, respected their privacy and dignity, took account of their individual needs, and helped them understand their conditions. They provided emotional support to patients, families and carers.”
Blackburn CQC report 2022
“The service was well led, with a positive staff culture and good governance. Staff felt respected, supported and valued and were focused on the needs of patients receiving care. Staff felt proud of the service they worked in and that they provided good care for patients. Staff spoke passionately about the work that they did and the patients that they worked with.”
Wirral CQC report 2022
In our commitment to digital accessibility, we strive for compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 across our entire digital estate. We are proud to have met our 22/23 target of 80% compliance on brook.org.uk and you can read more about our digital accessibility goals in this blog.
As part of our commitment to staff development, we have increased the number of Faculty Registered Trainers across the organisation, expanding our capacity to upskill our own clinical team. We have also updated our contraception and sexual health nurse-in-training programme, and in March 2023 we began delivery of the STI Foundation theory course.
Find out more about what it’s like to work at Brook: