Black girls to be the target of plans to cut teen pregnancy in Britain
BLACK and Caribbean girls will be the targets of the Government’s latest drive to bring down the rate of teenage pregnancy, The Times has learnt.
The move has been ordered by Beverley Hughes, the Children’s Minister, who is concerned that teenagers from some ethnic minority groups remain much more likely to become pregnant than their peers from different backgrounds, even after taking into account factors such as deprivation and poor educational achievement.
Ms Hughes said that she wanted agencies working on teenage pregnancy to have the confidence to reach out to and engage with young people from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups. “There are some BME groups, for example Bangladeshi girls in Tower Hamlets, where teenage pregnancy rates are much lower than the norm,” she said. “There are other BME groups where the rates are much higher than the norm.”
Guidance issued today to councils and health authorities by Ms Hughes and Caroline Flint, the Public Health Minister, notes with concern that rates of teenage motherhood are significantly higher than average among mothers of “black Caribbean”, “other black” and “mixed white/black Caribbean” ethnicity.
Black British girls also have proportionately more abortions, accounting for 9 per cent of all terminations to women under 18, even though they make up 3 per cent of the population of women aged 15 to 17.
An analysis of the teen pregnancy data ordered by Ms Hughes found that the best-performing local authority had had a reduction of 42 per cent since the Government’s strategy began in 1999, but rates have increased by 43 per cent in the worst areas.
“What really is striking is that some areas of significant deprivation, such as Liverpool and Hackney, have shown major improvements, while others, such as Manchester and Newcastle, have not,” Ms Hughes said. Areas that had performed the best had appointed a senior official in charge of reducing teenage pregnancies and had good family planning services tailored to the young people in their area.
The new guidance document comes amid concern that the Government’s teenage pregnancy strategy is unlikely to meet its target of halving teenage conceptions by 2010. Britain still has the highest teenage conception rates in Western Europe and the latest official statistics show that pregnancy rates among 15 to 17-year-olds fell by 11 per cent between 1998 and 2004, to 41.5 per 1,000.
Vanessa Bridge, of the Black Health Agency, a non-profit organisation working in Manchester, welcomed the new emphasis on extra sexual health help for BME teenagers, but also argued for more support for girls who chose to become pregnant.
“In this community, it is socially acceptable to be a young mum,” she said. “It may not be ideal, but you are got going to be ostracised by your community or forced into marriage by your parents because this will have happened through many generations of your family. You cannot come in and say this is wrong. But you can teach the benefit of waiting until you are older to have children.”
Duane Jeffers, a project worker at Young Black Peerspectives in Hulme, Manchester, said that it was particularly difficult to break the cycle of teenage pregnancy in the Caribbean community.
He said: “My mother is Caribbean, and I know that it (contraception) is not something that tends to be spoken about. A lot of young men feel they cannot go to parents, aunts or uncles with these issues, so the majority of the time they discuss it with peers. Also, a lot of males run wild and free. They do their own thing without any structure from their parents.”
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