District’s Success In Fight To Stem Teen Births

Bradford is winning its battle to cut the number of schoolgirl mums. The district’s pregnancy rate for under-18s has dropped by 22.9 per cent, according to new figures. Bradford is the second most improved out of the 15 Yorkshire and Humber regions – beaten only by North Yorkshire – and 15th best out of 129 English regions, it has been revealed. The number of teenage conceptions in the district has fallen from 57.2 out of 1,000 to 44.1. The figures were based on the numbers of birth registrations and abortions in under-18s at Bradford’s four Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in 2004. The results were compared to the same data collected in 1998.

Claire Whiteley at Upfront – a partnership which draws together Bradford’s health and social care organisations – said the figures were a result of groups working together to put out a strong message to teenagers.

Upfront supports the Government’s Teenage Parenting Strategy which was set up in 1999. The strategy aims to halve the under-18 conception rate by 2010. It also aims to increase to 60 per cent the proportion of 16 to 19-year-old mothers in education, training or employment in an attempt to reduce their long-term risk of social exclusion. North Yorkshire County had a 30.2 per cent fall in the numbers of teenage pregnancies.

Calderdale’s total dropped by 19.3 per cent and Kirklees’s rate by 10.3 per cent. Leeds’s total of teenage pregnancies dropped by 7.9 per cent, while Sheffield’s was up 7.6 per cent.

Claire Whiteley said: “Because we are trying a multi-agency approach, a young person will have a lesson in school and then the message will be reinforced by others, when they visit their GP, for example.”

She said agencies also worked hard at dispelling myths and encouraging youngsters to think about their individual choices: “One of the big things they are doing is work on an individual basis, talking to young people about what they want. It’s about choice.”

But she cautioned that although the figures were positive for Bradford the struggle was not over and the hard work would have to continue. “Yes, we are pleased but we don’t just want to think the job is done, I want all young people to feel they can talk,” she said. “It’s about getting the education, information and all the services working together. I think it’s down to the partnership working in this area.”

One teenage mother who had her baby at the age of 17 said she would not have coped if it had not been for the support services available in Bradford.

Amy McKay, 19, gave birth to Abi-Jo, now two, at Bradford Royal Infirmary. She said the levels of support from day one had helped her deal with her pregnancy and the birth.

“When I first got pregnant I went to a teenagers’ ante-natal group at BRI. They showed me what was going to happen, gave me confidence knowing what I was going to experience and that there were other people in the same situation as me,” she said.

Since then Amy has helped set up and run Wyke Tots and Teens group – which provides a strong network of support for teenage parents via health care and social services as well as outside agencies. And she has also worked as a research assistant for the University of Bradford during a project to find out about the problems hitting teenage parents.

Now, thanks to the childcare services available to young mothers in Bradford, Amy is on a full-time course at Bradford College doing a National Diploma in health and education.

“It’s a full-time course and it’s a full-time job looking after Abi-Jo,” she said. “It’s been difficult at times. When I had my little girl I had to leave education. It’s down to the help I got that I can go to college.”

Children, Young People and Families Minister Beverley Hughes said: “I welcome this new look at figures which show that the national rate of teenage pregnancy has continued to fall and I especially want to congratulate the work going on in Bradford and North Yorkshire where there has been particular progress thanks to the high quality support and services being offered to young people.

“We know that the outcomes of teenage pregnancy for both parent and child are likely to be negative. The Government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy aims to help young people by giving them honest and unbiased information and support, as well as raising their aspirations and opening up opportunities. But success relies on Local Authorities and PCTs making this a priority and all agencies working together.”