Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
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Minister calls for better sexual health services at all Colleges
* £2m funding for 2009/10 to support enhanced FE sexual health services
Colleges have today been urged to improve their sexual health services by Further Education Minister Sion Simon.
The Minister pushed for all colleges to offer a minimum level of sexual health provision to include screening for sexually transmitted infections and providing contraception to Further Education students. He also congratulated the colleges which already excel in sexual health provision, but said it was unacceptable that some FE colleges do not offer any such support.
In an address to delegates at a national conference to discuss sexual health services in colleges, Mr Simon said:
"We need to ensure that all colleges offer at least basic services and work to improve the quality of sexual health services generally. The most important services colleges can offer are preventative. And they do society as a whole a great service when they provide a safe, confidential space where young people can come and talk to a health expert one to one."
Mr Simon also expressed concern that insufficient sexual health provision is linked to drop out rates in colleges:
"FE exists to help young people and adults alike to gain the skills and qualifications they need to achieve success in life. But too many young learners in FE drop out early - a significant number because of health and personal problems.
"Easier access to sexual health services in FE settings can be an important means of helping young people avoid unintended conceptions - and helps young parents avoid unintended second pregnancies.
"If retention and attainments are critical measures used to calculate a college's funding doesn't it make sense in terms of pure self-interest for providers to promote the sexual health of their learners?"
Government will provide £2m in 2009/10 under the Healthy FE Programme to support colleges in developing their sexual health services. This includes an increased sum of £1.6m to Strategic Health Authorities to strengthen delivery partnerships with Primary Care Trusts. Many colleges offer some level of sexual health service to students from basic provision of contraception and information about local services, to more comprehensive support such as a sexual health nurse and Chlamydia testing.
The conference, arranged jointly by the Department for Innovation Universities and Skills (DIUS), Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), Department of Health (DH) and the Association of Colleges (AoC) showcased best practice, offered support to colleges setting up sexual health services and updated delegates on the work of cross-government initiatives to improve the health and well-being of young people.
Beverley Hughes, Minister for Children Young People and Families, said:
"It is vital that young people have access to confidential advice and support on a range of health issues, especially on relationships and sexual health. Evidence shows us that more teenagers are engaging in risky behaviour and lack of contraceptive use is resulting in an increase in conception leading to abortion. So the message in our strategy has always been clear: teenagers should be encouraged to delay early sexual activity, but to use contraception when they do become sexually active. We know that on-site health advice in further education colleges, secondary schools and other youth settings is more attractive to young people and will help address the 80% of under 18 conceptions among 16-17 year olds. It also means that young people need to take less time away from learning to attend medical appointments, can quickly address any concerns that are impacting on their learning and can ultimately help prevent young women having to drop out of learning altogether due to an unplanned pregnancy."
Notes to editors:
1. The conference: 'The role of Colleges in the Provision of Sexual Health: a Step Change in Provision' took place in London on 7 May 2009
2. The Healthy FE Programme is funded by the Department of Health.
3. Further information can be found at the Sex Education Forum website: http://www.ncb.org.uk/Page.asp?originx_5621wo_3444736000085f11g_2007221957e
For further information, please contact the DIUS press office on 020 3300 8927.