In a ministerial message, Sarah Teather, Minister of State for Children and Families and Paul Burstow, Minister of State for Care Services address LA teenage pregnancy leads.
We welcome the 2010 under-18 conception data published in February, showing a decline in both the number of teenage births and abortions. This is down in large part to the work you and your colleagues do day in day out with some of our most vulnerable young people.
We are particularly heartened by good progress in local areas – including, Blackpool, Croydon, East Sussex, Enfield, and Warwickshire. We have attached case studies from these areas with this message to share some of the good practice we know is out there.
However, whilst rates have reduced overall, there is still too much variation between local areas. We urge local authorities to learn from the areas that are seeing the most significant reductions so that the decline shown by the data can continue and accelerate in the future nationwide.
This Government remains committed to reducing rates of teenage pregnancy still further and improving outcomes for young parents and their children. This is central to our aim to reduce inter-generational poverty and inequalities. That's why the under-18 conception rate is a national measure of child poverty and one of the three sexual health indicators in the Public Health Outcomes Framework.
The good news is we know what works. The evidence shows that comprehensive education about relationships and sex (SRE), combined with easy access to effective contraception are the two essential ingredients for reducing teenage pregnancy. Every young person needs decent SRE and contraception advice, and we know the vast majority are already receiving it through dedicated professionals like you. We know that your support does help teenage parents' access really good contraceptive advice to help prevent repeat pregnancies.
Last December's Positive for Youth document set out the role this Government will play in reducing rates of teenage pregnancy as part of a wider vision to support young people. It also explained our vision for delivery of this support on the ground: through locally-led partnerships that are responsive to local need. We know many areas are already working in this way, delivering seamless and integrated support for teenagers, for example local authorities are working in partnership with public health and set joint children’s health/public health local targets to make progress in the downward trends in conception rates and teenage pregnancy. We want to see this happening in every local area.
We know from the Positive for Youth consultation the importance of it being normal and easy for young people to seek sexual health advice and not feel stigmatised. Local HealthWatch England which is being set up as part of our health reforms will give a voice to young people in the shaping of local services. The integration of public health into local authorities and the creation of Health and Wellbeing Boards will offer a real opportunity to develop a more integrated approach to including teenage pregnancy and sexual health in needs assessment and commissioning.
It is encouraging that local areas continue to include teenage parents in their efforts to improve support for vulnerable families through maternity and expanded health visitor services, children’s centres and Family Nurse Partnership. We know you help teenage parents re-engage with education or work-based learning, for example through the new bursary scheme and Care to Learn scheme of support with childcare costs. This is critical to local areas' ambitions to increase participation levels and employment prospects for young people.
Later this year we will publish our sexual health policy document. This will also help local areas to focus on further reducing teenage pregnancy rates.
We know there is less money to make this happen but we commend your efforts and urge you to maintain them because the data shows you are making a difference.
Thank you and please continue to play such a valuable role.