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Teenage Pregnancy

Volume 457: debated on Thursday 8 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) whether the Government is still on target to achieve the aim of halving the number of teenage pregnancies by 2010; (125705)

(2) what actions his Department has taken to support the Government’s target of halving the number of teenage pregnancies by 2010;

(3) what steps he is taking to focus resources allocated to tackling teenage pregnancy on areas where that rate increased in 2005;

(4) what guidelines the Government has given to (a) local education authorities and (b) primary care trusts on action to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy.

2005 under-18 conception rate data—published by the Office for National Statistics in February 2007—showed that since the 1998 baseline year, the under-18 conception rate in England fell by 11.8 per cent. to its lowest level for over 20 years. The under-16 rate fell by 12.1 per cent. over the same period.

Despite this steady progress, we are below the trajectory needed to achieve the challenging target of halving the under-18 conception rate by 2010. Consequently, we have issued guidance to local authorities and primary care trusts, setting out the key features of local strategies in areas where teenage conception rates have fallen fastest. All areas have been asked to review their strategies against this guidance, with a view to raising all areas’ performance to the levels of the best—if all areas had performed as well as the top quartile, the national reduction would be 26 per cent.—more than twice the 11.8 per cent. reduction that has actually been achieved.

The funding available to each area for delivery of their local strategies is calculated using a formula that takes account of: the area’s under-18 conception rate; the total size of the female population aged 15-17; and the number of prevented conceptions needed in order for the area to meet its under-18 conception rate reduction target (of between 40 and 60 per cent.). We have no plans to change the basis of the formula. Areas with declining rates have achieved this within current funding arrangements, through joint planning and commissioning and we do not believe that effective delivery of local strategies requires more resources. However, areas which have made least progress will receive additional support to strengthen their strategies from their Government office, which is charged with performance managing local areas. For high and increasing rate areas, this will include additional support provided by the Department of Health’s ‘National Support Team’.