Scots sexual health scheme still failing, says report

A multi million pound Scottish Government sexual health scheme aimed at children as young as ten has been labelled a failure by academics, just as its forerunner was in 2005.

Healthy Respect Two is a continuation of the controversial Healthy Respect programme which was blasted after teenage pregnancy rates actually rose in the areas where the scheme focused its attention.

Healthy Respect promotes sex education in schools and offers condoms and the morning-after pill at drop in centres.

Limited

A report on the Healthy Respect Two scheme, which was aimed at children between the ages of ten and 18 across the Lothian area, found it has had “limited beneficial impact” commenting that girls gained “very little or experienced health losses” as a result of the programme.

Professor Lawrie Elliott from Edinburgh Napier University, who was involved in the report said: “If you really want to do something with vulnerable young people, you’ve got to give them something more in their lives beyond just sex education.”

Professor Elliott commented that the scheme “has been running for close to eight years and we’ve found the programme has had very limited impact”.

The researchers found that Healthy Respect Two did not reduce the “sexual health inequalities between richer and poorer groups”.

Causes

The report also found no evidence of a difference in sexual health rates when comparing the sexual health of West Lothian school children with the Scottish average.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman defended the scheme saying it had helped to develop partnerships accross public bodies.

The report was carried out by researchers from Edinburgh Napier University, and two social research groups.

Health Respect website Clicking the button sends users away from the Healthy Respect page.

The Healthy Respect website includes a ‘Hide this page’ button in the top right hand corner so that youngsters could hide it from parents.

Little evidence

The Healthy Respect scheme came under fire in 2005 from academics and a parents’ rights group.

At the time Eileen McCloy, from Not With My Child, said: “When Healthy Respect was set up five years ago, its aim was to reduce teenage abortions by 50 per cent and teenage pregnancies by 20 per cent by the year 2010.

“Four years into the pilot scheme, teenage pregnancies had increased by 10 per cent in three areas in which it operates while, in the rest of Scotland, where it doesn’t operate, they dropped by 6.7 per cent.”

A report from Aberdeen University in 2005 also found “there is little evidence indicating improved sexual health outcomes for young people in Lothian following the Healthy Respect intervention”.

Flawed

In April it was revealed Scottish children as young as eleven were receiving sex education from 14-year-olds in a bid to cut teenage pregnancies. Critics described the scheme as “flawed”.

The Health Buddies pilot project, in Dundee, involved pupils as young as 14 teaching younger children about issues such as contraception and puberty.

The so-called ‘health buddies’ were also expected to direct youngsters to where they could get advice on homosexual issues.

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, commented: “Parents and teachers should not be abdicating their responsibilities in this way and using school children to offer advice in areas where they lack the necessary wisdom, experience and maturity.”

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