Connexions must respect young people’s confidentiality, say Government’s teen pregnancy advisers

Connexions’ policy on confidentiality should be urgently
re-examined, the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) on Teenage
Pregnancy has told the government.
Personal advisers working in schools should treat one-to-one
consultations between young people and personal advisers as
confidential unless there are serious child protection
In its annual report, published last week, the IAG, says it  is
“deeply concerned” about current situation in which
personal advisors working in schools have to adhere to existing
school policies on confidentiality which may differ from school to
school and from the wider Connexions service.  Young people in
schools using the Connexions service “must be told of the
level of confidentiality they can expect before they disclose
Young people are entitled to a fully confidential service, with
information only being disclosed for serious child protection
reasons or with the young person’s consent, says the IAG.
“Research with young people consistently shows that they will
not seek advice or disclose personal problems to any professional
unless they are reassured about the confidentiality of the
“The current position undermines the potential of the
Connexions service and its vital contribution to reducing teenage
pregnancy. Given this position it has to be asked what added value
Connexions can offer to the most vulnerable in these
The independent advisory group, chaired by Lady Winifred Tumim, was
established in 2000 to monitor the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy and
advise government. It recommends that under 16s should have the
same advice to confidentiality as adults when they seek advice
about contraception, sex and relationships and there should be a
new advertising campaign to inform them of this right. Health and
other professionals should be given revised guidance to clarify
that young people can and should seek advice when they need it
without worrying about their confidence being breached.
The report says the teenage pregnancy strategy overall is working,
and young people are becoming more confident about using sexual
health services. Latest figures show a 10 per cent drop in the rate
of teenage conceptions among under 18s, and a fall of 11 per cent
among under 16s. The teenage pregnancy strategy aims to halve the
under 18 conception rate by 2020 and to increase the participation
of teenage mothers in education, training and employment by 60 per
But if the pressure was not kept up these achievements could be
jeopardised.  More needs to be done to engage boys and young men in
sex and relationship education in school, which they often feel is
irrelevant. Young people from black and ethnic minority groups also
need to be targeted, says the report.
The IAG recommends that sex and relationship education should start
and Key Stage 1 as part of the statutory curriculum.
On the issue of support, the report says that many young parents
still have very low incomes, face many obstacles in returning to
education, and work and live in inappropriate housing. It
recommends better financial incentives to encourage them to return
to education, as well as affordable and adequate childcare and

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