Children North East runs weekly Sexual Health drop-in and outreach sessions for young people throughout Newcastle and Gateshead.

We caught up with Rebekah Bennett, Project Worker at our Young People's Service for a chat about how it all works.

Project Coordinator Rebekah Bennet

What Sexual Health services does Children North East offer?

We run weekly drop-in and outreach sessions throughout Newcastle and Gateshead and we help young people with:

  • Signing up for C-Cards: These cards give young people aged between 13-25 access to free condoms which they can pick up at places like pharmacies, our Young People's Service and GP surgeries. You can get an app on your phone where you can put your location in and it lets you know the nearest place you can get free condoms.

  • Screening for chlamydia and gonorrhoea testing via a pee in the pot for males and a swab for females.

  • Providing friendly and supportive staff to offer advice around sex and relationships.

What happens at a typical drop-in?

We go out to a range of schools and colleges and we have a banner. There's no pressure, young people choose to come in themselves and can have a chat with us, get advice and support and use our services. We have loads of leaflets too.

We can also signpost young people to other services, like if they should see their GP or visit the New Croft Centre which offers a wide range of contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Are young people up for coming along or are they embarrassed?

It really varies - some of them are really confident and will be able to say anything to you, but some of them are having sex for the first time and can be very anxious and a bit quiet. 

A lot of young people have got common sense when it comes to their sexual health, but some of them don't have a clue. If you haven't been taught about it, then how are you meant to know?

What are the most commonly asked questions?

"Does my mam need to know about my C-Card?" No, it's completely confidential as long as you're aged 13-25.

"If I had chlamydia, would my partner get it too?" Yes but not necessarily, but they must be tested if you've got it. I think  a lot of young people get nervous that they'll be blamed by their partner, but we explain about how healthy relationships involve both sides taking responsibility.

What are some of the more unusual questions?

"I wash my balls a lot with Lynx and now they're very itchy, what should I do?" Um, not use the Lynx!

They make me laugh, they really do! Some questions I know how to answer, but some stuff I have to look up!!!! Training doesn't always prepare you for some of the questions young people come out with! But that's why I like doing this kind of work, it's so fun and interesting. You've never got the same young person in every time. You get ALL the gossip!

But on a serious note, it's nice to be able to be there for young people who are nervous about having sex for the first time, and give them the right kind of support and advice. We let them know they they don't have to do it, if they don't want to, if they change their mind, that's okay! It's their choice and it's important to let them know that they should only have sex if they feel comfortable.

Do you talk about consent with young people?

We do a special consent quiz with the young people, and we also have to cover it with them when they're signing up for a C-Card which they'll only get access to if we feel they understand about consent.  It's really important because it can be a really confusing thing to get their head around. Doing the quiz with them helps us to know what they do and don't know.

For example we've had young people thinking that just because they've agreed to have sex with a condom, that it's then okay for their partner to not wear one without checking first. This makes them far more vulnerable to getting pregnant and getting sexually transmitted diseases, so it's definitely not okay.

Are young people quite open about their sexuality?

Young people are really open about things now. They come in and see us with their girlfriends and their boyfriends and they're lovely. You do hear some stories though, it's often grandparents who just don't understand; it's a generational thing. Parents are far more accepting.

We had a stall at a festival in Prudhoe recently, and we were giving away LGBTQ stickers and tattoos, and everyone wanted them and were saying it's great that we're so supportive and they'd definitely come and talk to us if they had an issue, and that's what you want.

You want young people to feel supported, and if you look at an area where there's no sexual health centre they feel like they can't get that kind of help, but in fact they can just come to one of our drop-ins.

Are teenagers using dating apps?

You don't really hear about them using dating apps, it's all about Snapchat and Instagram. The issue I have with that is anyone can be the person behind the profile. They could meet up with someone who turns out to be a 30 year old man. We get them to really think about why an older person would be trying to hang out with them. We've got to drill it in to them to be really, really careful.

What happens if you think a teenager is being groomed by a grown up for sex?

It's really difficult, because often the young people will not consider it to be grooming and will be bowled over by someone buying them presents, but it IS grooming.

The training we do before we work with young people covers this issue, and there are strict safeguarding procedures that we have to follow if we come across this issue. 

Find out more about our Sexual Health Services

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