Ask the Experts: Buying condoms is not your job

Jeanie Lynch, Tracie Trimmer-Platman, Peter Lewis and June O'Sullivan
Monday, October 13, 2014

Our panel offers advice on condom distribution, writing a vision statement, being turned down for promotion and nursery staff contracts.

Youth workers should be involved in talking about sexual health and contraception
Youth workers should be involved in talking about sexual health and contraception

Question: My boss has bought a load of condoms and is giving them out to young people at our youth centre and during outreach work. I am uncomfortable with this but how do I tell him?

Tracie Trimmer-Platman: Talking about sexual health and contraception is something youth workers should be involved in.

This can include promoting safe sex and the use of condoms. However, actually buying and handing out condoms falls somewhat outside that remit.

Youth work organisations should understand their limitations and work with others who have the expertise they lack. Wherever you are in the UK there will be specialist sexual health services that can help. Not only do they provide condoms and other contraception, they also offer health tests, information, advice and access to all kinds of resources. National organisations working in this field include Brook ( and FPA (

You should speak to your boss about this or at least raise it in a team meeting.

Tracie Trimmer-Platman is senior lecturer in youth and community work at the University of East London

Question: I commissioned a draft vision statement for our residential provision and was presented with a 63-page document. Help.

Peter Lewis: Our capacity to over-engineer these things never fails to surprise me. You should really be aiming for a "plan on a page". Ultimately, you may need two sides of A4 but the goal should be something everybody will read and remember. Instead of struggling to boil down 63 pages, start by writing a version that would make sense to young people in care - they're the most important audience.

This should help focus your mind down to a series of headlines with one or two sentences to support each one.

When you come to write a version for members, partners and your records then you can expand on the points you have made. Make sure you check how readable your document is. You can use the Flesch-Kincaid analysis, which will give you the level of education needed to understand it.

Readability checks like this are available as part of standard Word programmes. This is not about "dumbing down" but making sure your audiences get the most out of the vision.

Peter Lewis is a freelance providing interim local authority children's services leadership, and a former DCS in Haringey

Question: I have been doing the same job working with children for several years but have just been turned down for a promotion within my company. I would love to train as a social worker but am worried I'm not good enough.

Jeanie Lynch: Sounds like being turned down for promotion has given your self-confidence a knock. Ask for some feedback from your interview to help you understand where you need to gain skills and experience in order to progress. On the other hand, it could be that you did not "sell yourself" or nerves got the better of you.

Use the feedback to look at your options and consider your future objectively. If you are serious about training to be a social worker then perhaps there is a course near you that you could enrol on next year. This would give you time to regain your confidence.

Jeanie Lynch works for Barnardo's and has 25 years' experience of working with vulnerable children and families

Question: I am a relatively new nursery manager and have just appointed a member of staff. What do I need to include in this new staff member's contract?

June O'Sullivan: Recruitment is expensive, so you need it to work well at every stage. Having a clear contract is a good start. It needs to include basics such as your name and the registered office for your business, the new employee's job title and a brief job description, pay date and rate of pay, and start date.

The document should clearly state the place of work whether that is one location or a number of settings. When it comes to hours and days of work, be very clear and ensure these work for both you and the employee. It's no good agreeing to hours that suit the employee but not the business. Meanwhile, staff need to know exactly what they are signing up for.

Other key information includes sick pay entitlement and holiday entitlement. You must give staff holiday and pay them. If the employee works five days a week, they are entitled to 28 days leave per year, which can include bank holidays.

Finally, be clear about pension provision. You must state whether you provide a company pension or if staff join the auto-enrolment government scheme.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive of the childcare charity and social enterprise, the London Early Years Foundation

Email questions, marked "Experts", to

CYP Now Digital membership

  • Policy and research analysis
  • Evidence-based case studies
  • Leadership advice
  • Legal updates
  • Local area spotlights

From £15 / month


CYP Now Magazine

  • Policy and research analysis
  • Evidence-based case studies
  • Leadership advice and interviews
  • Legal updates

From £12 / month