Fall in under-16 pregnancy rate

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A dramatic drop has been reported in the number of pregnancies among under-16 schoolgirls in the Central Beds area.

Conception rates in that age group are said to have fallen by 38.7 per cent in 2011-12, down from 6.7 to 4.2 per 1,000 girls.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics also show a continuing fall in conception rates among under-18s in Central Beds.

When Central Beds Council was formed in 2009, there were 32.5 conceptions per 1,000 girls. That has dropped by just over 18 per cent, to 26.7 conceptions per 1,000 girls in 2012.

The national average conception rate for under-18s is 27.7 per 1,000 girls.

Central Beds Council says that the number of under-16s getting pregnant has been “drastically reduced” thanks to various factors.

They include “early intervention programmes”, increased access to sexual health services, and work with young people who may be at greater risk of pregnancy.

Executive councillor Mark Versallion, who has special responsibilities for children’s services, welcomed the news.

He said: “Our young people are benefiting from the dedicated services in place which are giving them greater opportunity to make other decisions about their education and life.

“Teenage pregnancy is falling across the country but we need to do more to enable young people to reach their full potential.”

The council says that since 2009, “young people friendly” sexual health services have been set up to try to bring down the conception rate.

Projects have been run to raise the self-esteem and aspirations of young people.

They have also aimed to build youngsters’ resilience to the range of pressures which are experienced by modern adolescents.

Muriel Scott, director of public health for Central Beds, is pleased that the hard work is paying off.

She believes there is still more to be done.

And she said: “Reducing teenage pregnancy requires commitment from all services working with children and young people.

“We all have a role to play in supporting young people to develop self-esteem, aspirations, accurate understanding of relationships and sex and knowing where to go to for advice and guidance.

“It is important that we continue to prioritise on improving outcomes for children and young people.”