Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 826-839)




  826. Colleagues, can I welcome you to this session of the Committee. Can I welcome our witnesses and express the Committee's gratitude to you for coming along to talk to us today, and also for the written evidence that you have sent in. Can I ask you each very briefly to introduce yourselves to the Committee.

  (Ms Hall) I am Tara Hall from the Wakefield Peer Group Research Project.
  (Ms Webley) I am Lorna Webley and I am from the Peer Group Research Project and I have been doing it for two years.
  (Mr Morris) I am David Morris and I am from the Peer Group Research Project as well.
  (Ms Nicholls) I am Sarah Nicholls, I am from Wakefield and I am representing the Peer Group Research Project as well.
  (Ms Henderson) I am Emma Henderson and I am a member of the Youth Parliament for the district of Aylesbury Vale and Bucks.

  827. Can I begin by asking the Wakefield witnesses to say a bit about the research you have done and what were the key messages that you gave to the local health service about the outcome of what you have done? Sarah, do you want to start and give us a little summary, not too long, about what you have done?
  (Ms Nicholls) Basically the Peer Group Research Project, we decided that the sexual health services in and around Wakefield were not as good as we thought they should be, so we conducted interviews and interviewed 202 people aged between 13 and 21 to find out their thoughts and feelings on the sexual health services in Wakefield and what they actually wanted doing about them. We had quite a few recommendations. I will not go through them all, but I will just pick out the key ones for you. The biggest one was prevention, not actually having to access the services, therefore, making them better still, but prevention first through education perhaps. We recommend that education should start in Year 6 and work upwards and it should be approached with a multi-agency of teachers, including specialist teachers and peer educators. All issues should be raised, including male and female issues and they should do it in a variety of ways, including things like role play, CD-roms and sports events so that you can also capture the imagination of people who are not interested in formal education. Also, while we were doing these interviews, we interviewed people from youth clubs, from a young offenders team, young mums-to-be, so we also looked at how we could educate people outside schools and colleges. We came up with the idea that advertising should play a really big part in it. Obviously people do not know where the services are, they do not know that if they access the services, they can get refunded bus fares. People are scared to use the services, so one of our recommendations was that young people gave doctors and nurses from the clinics face-to-face training which we have taken up in Wakefield, so myself, David and Lorna have been out and we have done face-to-face training with people from the GUM clinic and things like that, just telling them what we actually feel and how we feel young people feel when they walk into a service. We also mentioned that waiting rooms could be a lot more young-people-friendly. This was also taken up in Wakefield's Options clinic where they have completely moved the whole of their waiting area so that it makes it a more friendly atmosphere for young people going into the services.

  828. Did you have some sort of training to do this? Was there some work done to prepare you because you did the work and I think one of the things that interested me, when I talked to some of you before in Wakefield about this, was that the message coming over was that it was young people talking to young people. It was not some old codger going in and lecturing on something that perhaps he or she knew not a lot about in terms of the generation that you represent. That was an important part of it because the key message we are getting in this inquiry is of the importance of young people talking to young people, the 'buddy scheme' as it is called in some areas.
  (Ms Nicholls) Yes, we basically based our issues on peer education. To start with, we all got together, we did an interview with Denise, filled out a form and then Denise—

  829. Can you just explain who Denise is? Denise is a professional worker?
  (Ms Nicholls) Denise is a professional worker, our project leader who has run it from the beginning as a project. We also had Helen Humphrys who was the project nurse and gave us advice on situations. We went through all sorts of training with them, like interview skills, how to write the report. What else?
  (Mr Morris) Confidentiality, IT skills, the professional approach, team-building, research methods and peer research.
  (Ms Nicholls) Then we kind of got left to it to write our own interview and questionnaire. Denise and Helen and a few other people went through it, analysed it and made sure that it was all kosher and that everything was okay with it. We then went out and sent letters off to local youth services, asking if we could come and interview people there. We also interviewed our own friends and we collated the information together, so basically everything we did was our own with a little help from Denise, who is sat there (indicating), who took us through the training process to start with.

  830. You mentioned that one of the issues that came up was sex education and you recommended that this should commence in Year 6. Just explain to those of us who want to know what age would that be?
  (Ms Nicholls) Ten/eleven.

  831. So you are talking of it being in primary schools?
  (Ms Nicholls) Yes.

  832. So the message we are getting then from Wakefield is that at the moment that is not happening in primary schools presumably or it has not happened in your case. So what age were you when sex education was given in your secondary education?
  (Ms Nicholls) I got most of my sex education from my peer group, word of mouth from friends.

  833. Informally, you are talking about, from friends?
  (Ms Nicholls) Yes, informally.

  834. What we are looking at is what formal sex education was there within your education? At primary school you say there was nothing basically?
  (Ms Webley) A couple of videos.
  (Ms Hall) They were old ones and not up to date, from about 10 years ago.
  (Mr Morris) It was a ten-minute peer review video and just general stuff really.

  835. What did it give, just basic biology or what?
  (Ms Nicholls) In primary school it was basic biology. From my point of view, as we progressed into secondary school, it became a bit more about sex education and what sex is all about, but to me I can only remember having, like, three sex education lessons and we did not really get anything done because it was, "Oh, we're having sex education instead of geography", so everyone was saying, "Hooray!", and nothing ever got done unfortunately. I know now since I have left school that programmes have come into school, like PSHE, but I never had that at school.
  (Mr Morris) Another problem was that when you saw a video, it would give you brief details about sex education and things, but if you had any questions, the teacher did not have the experience or the training to answer the questions, so you never knew.

  836. We will come back to this point later on, but did you feel perhaps that somebody other than the teacher might have done those sessions? Was it positive or negative that it was the teacher doing them because there have certainly been suggestions that somebody outside the school ought to do that, to come in, nurses or whoever?
  (Ms Webley) I do not think people in schools like to have their teachers talking about sex education because you are with them day in, day out and you are more friendly with them, so you feel a little uncomfortable sometimes.

  837. So was that an issue that you picked up?
  (Ms Webley) Yes.

Dr Naysmith

  838. You say that you planned a lot of this with Denise and Helen. Did you ever fall out with Denise and Helen? Did you ever want to do something and they kind of said no?
  (Ms Nicholls) No.
  (Mr Morris) It was very relaxed. We were allowed to do not all that we wanted in a sense, but as long as it was to do with the work, we were allowed to do it.

  839. So sometimes it was your ideas and you driving the thing forward rather than being told what to do?
  (Ms Nicholls) Helen and Denise were more there for guidance than to tell us what to do. It was all very nice and quiet and they took us on residential weekend and everything went up and we got really close as a team. We did a team-building exercise and got close as a team and we were able then to work together and produce this because of Helen and Denise's guidance. It was not like Helen and Denise telling us what to do. We would do something, take it to them and then they would say, "Right, you can use that, but not this really", or, "You could reword this", so we did most of the work ourselves and they were there as a rock.

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