CONFIDENTIALITY & CONSENT
Consent and the law
The age of consent to any form of sexual activity is sixteen and is the same regardless of the gender or sexual orientation. It is an offence for anyone to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of sixteen. However if two young people of a similar age and are both mutually consenting, it is unlikely they will be prosecuted. Sexual offences legislation within the United Kingdom assumes that children under the age of thirteen do not have the capacity to consent to sexual activity.
The law does not affect a young person’s right to confidential advice on contraception, condoms, pregnancy and abortion, or their ability to consent to treatment, even if they are under the age of sixteen. This support can be accessed in school through the school nurse drop-in.
Our school nurses and community public health nurses offer young people a listening ear to support them with issues relating to their physical, social, emotional and sexual health, and they can also signpost them on to other specialist services when appropriate.
Sex or sexual activity can include sexual touching, oral, anal and vaginal sex with a penis or object.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland a person is considered to have consented if she/he agrees by choice, and they have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. In Scotland, consent is defined as free agreement.
If someone does not give consent or feels pressured, frightened or is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, unable to consent, and a person still engages in sex or sexual activity with them, this is classified within the law as sexual assault or rape.
Any sort of sexual activity without consent is illegal, no matter the age of the people involved and whatever their relationship.
Here are some Rise Above videos that help to explain consent and the law further:
The Fraser guidelines refer specifically to contraceptive advice. Health professionals such as school nurses can give contraceptive advice and treatment to females under the age of sixteen, providing the following:
1. The female (under the age of 16 years of age) appears to understand the advice being given by the health professional.
2. The health professional cannot persuade her to inform her parents or to allow them to inform the parents that she is seeking contraceptive advice.
3. It appears very likely that the female will continue having sexual intercourse/sexual activity with or without contraceptive treatment.
4. Unless the female receives contraceptive advice or treatment her physical or mental health or both are likely to suffer
5. The female’s best interests require the health professional to give her contraceptive advice, treatment or both without the parental consent
(Gillick v West Norfolk, 1985)
For further information provided by the NSPCC please click here.
Healthy and unhealthy relationships
Relationships can be really challenging and confusing at times. It can be easy to mistake controlling behaviour as love, especially when you really like someone.
Things that make a healthy relationship:
- Mutual trust
- Feeling like you can be the ‘real’ you
- Feeling happy
- Mutual respect
- Feeling supported
Deciding to start a sexual relationship is a big decision. It is something that needs careful consideration. You need to feel comfortable in the relationship, and also be ready to have sex or sexual contact. The person you are with should care about and respect you enough not to put pressure you. To find out more about healthy and unhealthy relationships click here.
Young people are entitled to confidentiality when seeking support from a health professional such as a school nurse or a community public health nurse. This means that the information discussed is not shared with other pupils, staff within school or with parents/carers. It will however be documented within the young person’s health records.
Our nurses usually encourage young people they are supporting to talk to people they trust, in order for them to have additional support, but this remains the young person’s choice.
Young people are provided with up-to-date health advice and guidance so that they can make informed choices.
The only exception to confidentiality is when the nurse has concerns that the young person is at risk of significant harm. If they do have concerns they will always inform the young person and ensure that they are aware that information discussed will be shared with others.
Safeguarding concerns are only shared with services that can provide appropriate and targeted support. This involves the nurse making an immediate referral to the Early Help and Safeguarding Hub (EHaSH) to log their concern and receive advice. Parents will be contacted for their consent to this referral if appropriate. Educational setting will also be contacted by the school nursing team if they are a part of the safety plan for that young person.