4pc rise in Norfolk teen pregnancy rate

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Teenage pregnancy rates in Norfolk are continuing to rise - bucking the national trend, it emerged today.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Teenage pregnancy rates in Norfolk are continuing to rise - bucking the national trend, it emerged today.

But policy makers insisted they were getting to grips with the county's rising numbers of gymslip mums and had introduced more joined up working to try and cut the numbers and meet the government's target of halving rates by 2010.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that nationally the teenage pregnancy rate among under-18s continues to fall, dropping from 41.1 pregnancies per 1,000 girls in England in 2005 to 41.5 per 1,000 in 2004.

In Norfolk 576 girls became pregnant in 2005 up by 62 from the previous year with the number of pregnancies per 1,000 girls rising from 35.9pc to 39.8pc.

That compares to 413 girls in Suffolk and 306 in Cambridgeshire, which had both seen falls in their overall conception rates.

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But fewer young mums in Norfolk, 38.9pc, opted for an abortion in 2005, compared to 50pc in Cambridgeshire and 43.6pc in Suffolk.

Rosalie Monbiot, cabinet member for Children's Services said despite the rise, the issue was being taken seriously and detailed work was being done this year to tackle the issue including the establishment of a multi-agency Teenage Pregnancy Partnership Board.

Rates were particularly high in parts of Norwich, Thetford, Yarmouth and King's Lynn and overall there had been a 7.5pc increase since 1998, the starting point for the government initiative.

Public bodies across the county were was also working with government on the issue as part of a local area agreement and it was a key aim of the major Norfolk Children and Young People's Plan produced last year.

“Our teenage pregnancy strategy unit is coordinating all the work that is happening across the county to tackle the issue and we have had a new team in place since November 2006. Working with parents, young people and schools is a key part of this and is centred on promoting self-esteem among young people and encouraging them not to feel pressurised into having sex too early,” Mrs Monbiot added.

Mark Osborn, teenage pregnancy co-ordinator at Norfolk County Council, said the factors contributing to teenage pregnancies were complex and there were no quick fixes.

“The issues are about social deprivation and low self-esteem,” he said. “This isn't just about young women, it's also about young men - they are half of the problem and half of the solution. The target is ambitious, but it is achievable.”