COUNCILS TOLD TO ‘RAISE THEIR GAME’ TO CUT TEENAGE PREGNANCY RATES
The local delivery of services designed to cut the rate of teenage pregnancies is crucial to their success according to the Minister for Children, Young People and Families, Beverley Hughes, but she is also calling on all local authorities to do more to reduce the figures by 2010. New figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the overall conception rate for under 18s remained virtually stable from 42,198 in 2004 to 42,187 in 2005, but with more girls under 16 becoming pregnant. That figure was up by four per cent.
The Minister said she was disappointed that the rate of under 16 conceptions had increased but said there would always be fluctuations in statistical data when looking at relatively small numbers and she was satisfied that the overall rate for under 18s was still going down. She said, too, that the figures were for 2005 and that since then there had been a major review of the strategy and a detailed analysis of the performance of each local authority.
Beverly Hughes added, “As a result, each local authority has been required to re-examine its approach, and incorporate the lessons from those areas achieving significantly falling rates. The 22 worst performing authorities in 2004 attended a meeting with me in January this year to reinforce the need to apply best practice rigorously everywhere.”
The new figures, she said, showed a wide variation in performance and this demonstrated how critical local delivery was. Guidance had been given to local authorities and PCTs on the key ingredients for a successful strategy. All areas should now be using that guidance to develop action plans to further reduce teenage pregnancy rates. The strategy was based on the best available international research resulting in a multi-faceted approach, including helping young people to resist pressure to have early sex through improved sex and relationship education and supporting parents in talking to their children about the issues.
The Minister had a clear message for local government. “I want all local authorities to raise their game, to achieve the best rates they can by 2010,” she said.