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Innovative new project to train up foster carers on RSE

9 February 2024

On World Care Day 2024, Sex Education Forum are excited to announce the launch of a new project that will develop and deliver Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) training to foster carers.  

About the new project 

The Sex Education Forum is working in partnership with three local areas in England. Leeds City Council, Wandsworth Borough Council and NSPCC Together for Childhood Plymouth are acting as trailblazers in embarking on this new project to bring RSE front and centre to their foster carers. 

The training content has been coproduced with cared for and care experienced young people, as well as input from social workers and other social care practitioners. The innovative programme will equip foster carers with the skills and confidence to address RSE issues effectively, providing a greater understanding of the nuances with RSE in the cared for context. The training endeavours to leave foster carers feeling empowered when discussing RSE issues with their young people, and connected to their peers and wider professionals in a shared goal to meet RSE needs.

Cared for young people are falling through the gaps in RSE provision

In the wake of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and Government response, it is clear that cared for young people are being failed in many aspects of their lives. We know that RSE is one of them. Cared for young people are more likely to be sexually active at a younger age [1], have poorer sexual health outcomes [2] and three times more likely to be mothers by the age of eighteen [3]. We also know these young people are more likely to have experienced abuse [4].

Young people have echoed what these statistics tell us, shouting out for RSE that is less negative, less focused on risk and moves away from shame. Young people have shared stories of having no access to period products in their foster homes [5] and avoiding seeking advice around sex due to worries that their sexual activity status will be disclosed to social workers without their consent [6].

I started my period during my second day in foster care. I wasn’t ready to talk about it with them but there should have been products in the house for me to use and there wasn’t.

Young person (Start Talking 2022).

Foster carers and young people call for bespoke resources and training

In 2022, Sex Education Forum launched the Start Talking guide in partnership with The Fostering Network. This practical resource was informed by foster carers and cared for young people. Through developing the resource, it became apparent that the lack of training around RSE was an issue felt by both foster carers and young people alike. The guide highlights the need for open and honest RSE conversations between foster carers and their young people - and this pilot training will build on that basis.

This project aims to plug the gaps that so many cared for young people are faced with in their experiences of RSE. We know they are less likely to have received positive RSE messages from their parents or carers [7]. On top of this, cared for young people are more likely to miss out on RSE at school [8] due to appointments with social workers and undergoing school moves as placements change. With 70% of cared for young people being looked after by foster carers [9] there is a real opportunity to improve the RSE that cared for young people receive by supporting and training foster carers with this part of their role.

The NSPCC Plymouth Together for Childhood team are excited to be part of the forthcoming pilot. The training, designed for and with foster carers, will enable them to have safe, kind and confident conversations with the children they care for, about sex and relationships.  We strongly believe that all children and young people deserve high quality, accurate information to enable and support them to make informed decisions and have fulfilling and healthy relationships throughout their lives.

Our Together for Childhood Team in Plymouth are co-ordinating activities across the city which focus on the prevention of child sexual abuse, and we believe that this work with foster carers will significantly and positively contribute to child sexual abuse prevention, and leave a lasting legacy for care experienced children.

Corinne Picton, NSPCC Development Support Officer - Together for Childhood Plymouth

Calling attention to the issue on World Care Day 2024

Care Day is the world's biggest celebration of cared for children and young people [10]. Sex Education Forum are thrilled to announce our exciting new pilot project and will strive to centre the voices of cared for young people throughout.

Lucy Emmerson, Chief Executive of the Sex Education Forum said:

“This exciting training programme is a reminder that we must endeavour to create a world where RSE conversations are not only happening in the classroom, but are naturally carried on at home. Building and reinforcing important RSE skills should be the responsibility of all the adults in a child's life.

This project is the start of a journey to embed quality RSE within social care and within the practice of all those that work with vulnerable young people.”

Further information 

The pilot will be delivered and evaluated throughout 2024. If you would like to know more about this project and be kept up to date, please email the project lead, Millie Roberts, at [email protected]



[1] Mezey G, Meyer D, Robinson F, et al. Developing and piloting a peer mentoring intervention to reduce teenage pregnancy in looked-after children and care leavers: an exploratory randomised controlled trial. Health Technol Assess 2015;19

[2] Ahrens KR, Richardson LP, Courtney ME, et al. Laboratory-diagnosed sexually transmitted infections in former foster youth compared with peers. Pediatrics 2010:126:e97-e103

[3] Public Health England 2021,-The%20under%2D18&text=There%20is%20a%207%2Dfold,be%20a%20parent%20before%2018.

[4] DfE 2013

[5] Start Talking guide

[6] Coram (2015) Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy and Improving Preparation for Parenthood for Care-Experienced Young People

[7] Mezey G, Meyer D, Robinson F, et al. Developing and piloting a peer mentoring intervention to reduce teenage pregnancy in looked-after children and care leavers: an exploratory randomised controlled trial. Health Technol Assess 2015;19

[8] Children’s Commissioner 2017 (Children’s Commissioner Stability Index Report 2017 via British Library)

[9] NSPCC (2024) Children in care: statistics briefing

[10] Care Day,young%20people%20with%20care%20experience