Backlash against NHS scheme offering free condoms to 13-year-olds
19th February 2015
condomThe NHS have been heavily criticised for offering a new scheme that offers free condoms, lubricant and sexual health advice to children as young as just 13. The new ‘C-Card’ scheme is available to anyone aged between 13 and 24 years of age that meet certain criteria, and is being piloted by Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust in an effort to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies in addition to the number of youngsters catching sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and genital herpes. Those in possession of a C-Card can discuss sexual health issues at clinics, pickup free condoms and advice on using them and even obtain some lubricant. The card use is limited however, with those aged 16 or over, able to use it up to six occasions, and youngsters between the ages of 13 and 15 are only permitted to use the card three times before it has to be renewed, which should raise the flag regarding teens engaging in repeated under-age sex. Anyone with the C-Card can go to 30 venues in West Sussex, including in Shoreham, Steyning, Hassocks, Hurstpierpoint and Midhurst. Should the venture prove to be a success, it will then be rolled out nationwide. However, the Family Education Trust campaign group have been vocal in criticising the new program, with a spokeswoman saying: “The role of parents and carers is vital in protecting young people as they are privy to emotional wellbeing, friendship groups and unusual behaviours. They are therefore uniquely positioned to intervene and safeguard. “The C-Card scheme denies parents the opportunity to advise and protect their children against the physical and emotional consequences of sex.” There are also fears that because the scheme is offering condoms to teens as young as 13, it is partly encouraging them to ignore the legal age of consent (16) and break it. Campaign For Real Education group chairman Chris McGovern said: “Sexual Health West Sussex is aiding, abetting and promoting the breaking of the law on consent and should be subjected to criminal prosecution.” Furthermore, The Mirror’s Carole Malone was particularly scathing in her judgement of the C-Card scheme, blasting: “Am I the only one who's incensed that NHS condoms for 13-year-olds are being advertised on a hip looking website called does this say about our society and how it regards sex when a state run health service is throwing condoms at kids…” Carole doesn’t stop there though in her anger at the scheme: “It says we've given up trying to teach kids how to deal with the legal, moral and psychological issues of underage sex because it's too hard. Instead the State is just making the assumption that they're all at it like rabbits so let's just try to minimise the damage.” Cutting teenage pregnancy in the UK is clearly an issue the government will have to consider curbing sooner rather than later, with Britain having the highest teenage pregnancy rate across Western Europe - the latest available statistics show that over 1,500 young people in West Sussex were diagnosed with chlamydia in a single year.