Charity calls for more funds for sex education as teen pregnancy rates increase

A stock photo of a woman holding her stomach, eight months into her pregnancy. Photo: Katie Collins/

A stock photo of a woman holding her stomach, eight months into her pregnancy. Photo: Katie Collins/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A sexual health charity has said it is 'concerning' to see a rise in the number of teenage pregnancies in Norfolk.

Norfolk County Council has said its teenage pregnancy strategy is currently being reviewed after figures from the Office of National Statistics showed an 8.1pc rise in conception rates in girls under-18.

The latest analysis shows figures for January to March 2016 – the most recent numbers available – and shows a rise compared to the previous quarter.

In numbers, this reflected a rise in Norfolk from 70 teenage pregnancies in the quarter to December 2015, to 78 by March 2016.

Norfolk teenage pregnancies reached their lowest point in 2014 with 291 conceptions and rates have risen slightly since then.

Natika H Halil, Chief Executive of sexual health charity FPA. Photo: FPA

Natika H Halil, Chief Executive of sexual health charity FPA. Photo: FPA - Credit: FPA

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A Norfolk County Council spokesman said because the percentage points were based on very small numbers of 'one or two young women' that: 'The new data point does not tell us anything – overall the trend is down.

'To help maintain this trend, our public health teams commission outreach services for the most vulnerable under 24s.'

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However chief executive of sexual health charity FPA, Natika H Halil, said: 'It's concerning that the latest statistics show a 4.3pc increase in teenage pregnancy in Cambridgeshire, as compared to the previous year's figures, along with an 8.1pc increase in Norfolk.

'As we've seen, reducing teenage pregnancy rates is possible – but not without investment in services.

'This is why it's so worrying that the UK government has cut public health budgets by a whopping £800m over six years, leading to greater pressures on local authorities, particularly in more deprived areas.

'We are calling on all political parties to support investment now, to make sure we build on the incredible work done so far and don't instead see teenage pregnancy rates slip.

'Not all teenage pregnancies are unplanned or unwanted but young people who become parents under 18 have a higher risk of poorer health, education, economic and social outcomes.

'Whichever party forms the next government must invest in both public health services and high-quality relationships and sex education – anything else is a false economy.'

Norfolk County Council has commissioned two new services aimed at providing education for young people.

A council spokesman said these were 'C-Card, chlamydia testing and contraception advice, (including implants and coils) coupled with safeguarding and keeping safe for our under-24s'.

The spokesman added: 'Our teenage pregnancy strategy is currently being reviewed and will be delivered at a locality level to help us to work most effectively in each area of the county.'

In Cambridgeshire there was a 4.3pc rise – from 40 to 42 conceptions – but in Suffolk, rates dropped by 0.6pc. There were previously 51 teenage conceptions, but this dropped to 50.

Tibbs Pinter, chief executive of Suffolk Young People's Health Project – a charity also known as Ipswich 4YP which helps young people aged 12 to 25 – said he was surprised at the conception rate fall but praised the work of schools, charities and youngsters for tackling the issue.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman added: 'We are pleased the overall teenage conception rates for Suffolk have decreased.

'However, we will continue to work with young people, and our partners, to provide the best quality sex education and services and will continue to address areas with higher rates in Suffolk.'

Sex education is compulsory in council-run schools, usually delivered through PSHE lessons.

But education secretary Justine Greening announced in March all schools will need to teach children about safe and healthy relationships. Parents will still have the right to withdraw their children from these classes.

Local trends reflect those nationally, where teenage pregnancy rates have fallen.

In our region Norfolk hit its peak in 2007, when there were 591 teeange conceptions.

In Suffolk, conceptions topped 431 in 1998 and saw their lowest numbers in 2015, with 196.

In Cambridgeshire, the highest was 206 in 2005, and lowest 171 in 2014.

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