Posted on: 25 May 2023

CNWL’s sexual health team took the lead for this Year of the Child event, focusing on our dedicated services for young people in Camden, Islington, Haringey, Barnet and Surrey.

Jeremy Woods (Learning Disabilities Lead in Sexual Health for Islington) and Justine Maher (Learning Disabilities Lead in Sexual Health for Barnet) spoke about the specialist Bridge Service, who help people with learning disabilities to access sexual health services.

“There is a stigma and lack of understanding that exists around people with learning disabilities having sexual relationships,” said Jeremy.

“We can be contacted via phone, text, WhatsApp and email,” said Justine. “We make sure our support is accessible and easy to access so we can equip people to make informed decisions about their sexual health.”

The team spoke about other specialist services, including CLASH and SHOC for people working in the sex industry and the Bloomsbury Clinic, who see young people who have acquired HIV.

“Unfortunately, young people do enter into the sex industry. We recently attended a university where we were informed that 5% of their students are in the sex industry already. For under 25’s we are seeing a big theme to study without debt,” said Emily Stephenson, Specialist Nurse Surrey Young Peoples Sexual Health Service.

Emily also discussed the common concerns for young people when thinking about visiting a sexual health service.

“The number one priority is confidentiality. Our job is to build the communication and trust so young people feel safe coming into our services. Talk to young people as people; be open and transparent to keep them informed of what you’re doing and why. It’s a non-judgemental space and allow them to express themselves in their own way.”

Sarah McCarthy and Darren Tippetts, Safeguarding Leads for Young People in Barnet discussed the rationale behind sexual health assessments, and the high prevalence of abuse and exploitation.  

“Estimates are between 5-24%, and it’s thought to be underreported. Peer on peer abuse accounts for over half (55%) of cases in London,” said Darren.

Sarah continues: “We work in a trauma informed way. What we aren’t going to do is keep repeating a traumatic history particularly when we see young people following a sexual assault. All of our practice and assessments are done within a trauma informed practice.”