Sexual Health and Relationships


Contents

  1. Provision of Information and Advice
  2. Puberty and Sexual Identity
  3. Pornography
  4. Sexual Activity in Homes
  5. Contraception
  6. Pregnancy and Termination
  7. Sexual Exploitation
  8. Sexually Transmitted Infections
  9. Masturbation
  10. Peer Group Abuse


1. Provision of Information and Advice

Registered Children’s Homes Manager must ensure that children and young people are offered with good quality, age appropriate information, support and advice on matters relating to sexual health and relationships. This information should supplement what is provided through the school/educational setting.

Such information and advice must be provided in a manner appropriate to children's age and understanding.

Before providing such information and advice, the Registered Children’s Homes Managers and Children’s Care Officers must consult the social worker and, if possible, parents or those with Parental Responsibility to ensure it is provided in the context of the child’s background and needs. Any specific requirements must be incorporated into the child’s Placement Plan.


2. Puberty and Sexual Identity

Staff must adopt a non-judgemental attitude toward children, particularly as they mature and develop an awareness of their bodies and their sexuality.

Staff must adopt the same approach to children who are confused about or wish to explore their sexual identity or who have decided to embrace a particular lifestyle (so long as it is not abusive or illegal).

Children who are confused about their sexual identity or gender identity must be afforded equal access to accurate information, education and support.

As necessary this must be addressed in Placement Plans.


3. Pornography

The use of online filters can help to ensure that younger children do not accidentally access pornographic or sexual images online. See UK Safer Internet for more information.

Older young people are likely to be curious about sex and relationships and may search for online for pornographic or sexual material. It is important that staff have an open discussion with young people about pornographic images and the impact that viewing these can have on them and their own developing relationships. The NSPCC have produced comprehensive guidance for parents and carers on how to talk to young people about online porn and healthy relationships.

For more information please see Online porn - Advice on how to talk to your child about the risks of online porn and sexually explicit material (NSPCC).


4. Sexual Activity in Homes

Children under the age of 13 are deemed to be incapable of giving consent to sexual activity. Therefore, children of this age who engage in sexual activity must be referred under the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding  Procedures (as a Child Protection Referral) as potentially suffering from Significant Harm.

When considering the placement (or ongoing placement) of children over the age of 13, the Registered Children’s Homes Manager must assess the risk of sexual relationships developing and should ensure strategies are in place to reduce or prevent these risks if they are likely to be exploitative or abusive.

Where children aged 13 - 18 are placed together with no identified risk of exploitative or abusive behaviour, the Registered Childrens’ Homes Manager and staff must monitor any developing relationships, and sensitively but positively discourage children from engaging in under age sexual relationships.

Overall, staff should be mindful of their duty to consider the overall welfare of children and this includes working to minimise risks and consequences of any sexual activity between young people living in the home.

When staff believe children are engaging in sexual relationships, they should:

  1. Ensure the basic safety of all the children concerned;
  2. Notify the Registered Children’s Homes Manager, who should notify/consult relevant social workers and consider reviewing the child's Placement Plan;
  3. Record all events in the Daily Log, relevant child's Daily Record. If required an incident report should be completed.

Should staff discover children engaging in sexual relationships, they should:

  1. Ensure the basic safety of all children concerned (if necessary staff may consider removal of one or more child);
  2. Inform the Registered Children’s Homes Manager, who should notify/consult relevant social workers and consider reviewing the child's Placement Plan;
  3. Record all events in the Daily Log, relevant child's Daily Record. If required an Incident Report should be completed.


5. Contraception

Access to contraceptives should not be conditional on children providing information about their lifestyles, and contraception will never be withdrawn as a punitive measure.

If children in the home are sexually active (even before they reach the age of consent) staff must take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of pregnancy or infection. This could include facilitating contact with relevant agencies providing contraceptive advice; such as the Brook Advisory Service or Leeds Sexual Health Services.

Matters of concern must be discussed with the social worker and addressed in Placement Plans.


6. Pregnancy and Termination

If a child/ young person is suspected or known to be pregnant, staff should talk to the child about who should be informed and what support the child / young person may require to promote their own and the unborn baby's welfare.

The child's social worker and, usually, their parent(s) should be informed and should collaborate with the child in drawing up a suitable plan for the promotion of the welfare of the parent to be and the unborn child.

However, a child may request that parent(s) are not informed.

In all cases where there are any concerns that the pregnant child or the unborn child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, the Registered Children’s Homes Manager must discuss it with the child's social worker with a view to making a Child Protection referral. In these circumstances it must be explained to the child why her request for confidentiality cannot be agreed. See Referring Safeguarding Concerns Procedure.

In cases where there are no Child Protection concerns, the child should be encouraged to inform her parents without delay. Where the child is 16, however, a request to keep the pregnancy confidential from her parents may be respected. Where a child under the age of 16 requests confidentiality, it may be possible to agree this if the child is of an age and level of understanding to make such an informed decision.

See Consents and Delegated Authority.

Where a child wishes to terminate a pregnancy, the social worker must be notified/consulted with a view to providing advice, counselling and support by suitably qualified independent counsellors.

If the termination goes ahead, the Registered Childrens Homes Manager must ensure that the child's privacy is protected and any physical or emotional needs are addressed sensitively.


7. Sexual Exploitation

See also Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership - Child Sexual Exploitation and the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures - Safeguarding Children and Young People from Child Sexual Exploitation: Policy, Procedures and Guidance Children who are placed in Children’s Homes may have previously experienced sexual exploitation (whereby sex / sexual activity is exchanged sex for rewards, gifts, drugs / alcohol, accommodation and / or money). Some children may continue to be exploited even when they are accommodated by the authority. Both boys and girls can be sexually exploited.

The Registered Children’s Homes Manager and all staff must be alert signs of sexual exploitation, and should do all they can to create an environment which encourages children to be open about their experiences and which offers them support.

Where there are any concerns that a child is being sexually exploited, it should be addressed in the child's Placement Plan.

Where children living the home are being sexually exploited, their social worker must be notified, and the Registered Children’s Homes Manager must make a notification to Ofsted and the police. See Delegated Authorities and Notifiable Events Procedure.


8. Sexually Transmitted Infections

Also see Infections and Blood Borne Viruses Procedure and Leeds Sexual Health – STIs.

If it is known or suspected that a child has a sexually transmitted infection (STI) the Registered Children’s Home Manager and social worker must be informed and decide what measures to take.

The child should be referred, with the parents’ consent if possible, to the Leeds Sexual Health Services who will provide the child and staff with advice, counselling, testing and other support.

Only those immediate carers of the child who need to know will be informed of any suspicion or the outcome of any tests and the strategies or measures to be adopted.

Before disclosing to any other agency or individual, the following criteria must be satisfied

  • The child (where appropriate) and the parents have given their written consent to the disclosure;
  • The disclosure would be in the best interests of the child;
  • Those receiving the information are aware of its confidential nature.


9. Masturbation

It is accepted that masturbation is part of normal sexual behaviour but children must be positively encouraged to undertake such activities in private and in a manner, which is not harmful to themselves or other people.


10. Peer Group Abuse

The following should be read in conjunction with the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedure for Abuse by Children and Young People who Display Harmful Sexual Behaviour.

The possibility of peer abuse should always be taken seriously. However, it is important not to label or stigmatise normal sexual exploration and experimentation between children.

Sexual behaviour is not usually a cause for concern unless it is compulsive, coercive, age-inappropriate or between children of significantly different ages, maturity or mental abilities.

If at any time staff suspect children are engaged in abusive sexual relationships as perpetrators and/or victims, they must immediately inform the Registered Children’s Home Manager, who must consult the social worker and make a referral under the Referring Safeguarding Concerns Procedures.

Consideration should be given by the Registered Children’s Homes Manager as to whether a Notifiable Event has occurred, see Delegated Authorities and Notifiable Events Procedure.