Sexual health workshops will be delivered to social care professionals to assist them in their work with children in care.
They will be delivered in January and February in counties Cork, Dublin, Sligo, and Galway.
The HSE’s decision to host the workshops is based on reports they commissioned this year looking at the sexual health and education of children in care.
“In March of this year, we published a series of reports [Sexual Health and Sexuality Education Needs Assessment of Young People in Care in Ireland, SENYPIC], led by Professor Abbey Hyde with a team in UCD,” said Helen Deely, the head of the HSE’s sexual health and crisis pregnancy programme.
“The reports were commissioned by the programme in partnership in Tusla on the basis that young people who experienced State care were more vulnerable to early sexual experiences and teenage pregnancy.”
The report consisted of five minor reports, all of which made various findings.
“The reports highlight how young people’s ability to negotiate sexual encounters depends greatly on their own emotional security and self-esteem,” said Ms Deely.
“They showed that relationships and sexuality education [RSE] is being delivered inconsistently across care settings and they identified barriers currently experienced by social care workers and foster carers in providing sexual health information and health care.”
Several actions were pinpointed by the report.
“A series of workshops for social workers and social care staff are planned in Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Sligo in January and February of 2017,” Ms Deely said.
She was speaking on Monday at the HSE’s Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme conference.
The reports also showed up issues around sexual exploitation and consent.
“Sexual competence was also reportedly undermined by exploitation and the fact that consent to sex was not always clear cut between sex partners,” reads the HSE’s report.
“A strong theme was that young women, sometimes in their early teens, report-ed having had first sex with male sex partners several years older than themselves.
“It was clear from their accounts that these young women’s capacity to consent without reservation was compromised and that they were not ready for sex with that partner.”
This issue had already arisen at the Social Care Ireland (SCI) conference this year.
“We welcome it and hope it will help all around. Social care workers will be very aware of the areas mentioned by Helen Deely,” a spokesperson from SCI told the Irish Examiner.
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