YWCA is a national charity working with disadvantaged girls and women across the UK. The West Kent branch of YWCA offers E2E and Foundation Learning programmes for young women aged 16-18. The importance of sex and relationships education is recognised throughout YWCA's work. Sessions on sexual health and relationships are run as part of the E2E course by YWCA staff together with a sexual health outreach worker. These sessions can contribute to gaining a 'Wise Up' qualification. This has been created by YWCA and is OCN-accredited.

The YWCA centre also provides sexual health services on-site. The centre is a condom access point and staff are trained to provide chlamydia testing and pregnancy testing as and when needed. Learning about sex and relationships and sexual health extends to one-to-one work with young women, often arising from a request for a pregnancy test or disclosure about a miscarriage or new relationship. Girls are referred to specialist services as appropriate but also get support from YWCA staff.

Young women are supported holistically by YWCA with a strong focus on developing self-esteem. Some young women progress successfully to college or employment but this can be a difficult transition. Staff have observed that young women who have felt unsupported in this transition sometimes become pregnant and return to YWCA in the young parents' group. Therefore, YWCA staff encourage girls to think about how they will deal with difficulties before they move on to college or employment and who can support them if they are finding it hard.

YWCA West Kent has a voice in local strategy as they sit on the teenage pregnancy implementation group. This partnership has been vital in developing links with the local PCT and in ensuring that staff can access the training and resources they need.

For more information contact:
Fiona Palmer, senior project worker, West Kent Centre, YWCA England and Wales.
Email: Fiona.palmer@ywca.org.uk
Web: www.ywca.org.uk

More case studies on this theme can be found in the Sex Education Forum briefing Foundation Learning and Apprenticeships (2010).