The Times

Tuesday, June 15 1999

Blair launches £60m plan to cut teen births

by Jill Sherman, Whitehall Editor
The Times

TONY BLAIR yesterday unveiled a £60 million plan to halve the rate of teenage pregnancies in Britain, including proposals to set up hostels for young mothers.

The Prime Minister said young parenthood leads to "shattered lives and blighted futures" as he confirmed that teenage mothers of 16 to 18 would be refused individual council flats and instead put in supervised hostels.

In Opposition, Labour attacked a similar scheme proposed by the Tories, with John Prescott claiming it would be a return to the workhouse. But yesterday Tessa Jowell, the Public Health Minister, defended the plan, saying girls would be given advice on parenting and finding work and they were "not in any sense meant as institutions of moral correction".

Mr Blair also announced that teenage fathers would have to pay for the upkeep of their children, insisting that fathers as well as mothers should shoulder their responsibilities. All primary schools will be required to provide sex education and contraceptives should be more widely available to the under-16s under the proposals. School nurses will be given a wider role in primary and secondary schools and where necessary will help children under the age of 16 to obtain contraceptives without parents' knowledge.

Family planning clinics will open in the evenings to allow schoolchildren greater access to contraceptives and teenage parents or "peer mentors" will be given "pocket money" to visit schools to talk to young people about the problems ahead.

The measures, outlined in a report from the Government's Social Exclusion Unit, are part of a programme to inform young girls and particularly boys about the consequences of early sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted diseases, and the practical and financial burdens of early parenthood.

The Government is to launch a £15 million publicity campaign with half the funding provided by the private sector plus a £2.8 million telephone line to advise teenagers on sex and relationships. Extra funding will be provided in high teenage pregnancy areas.

The move comes after new figures showed that Britain's spiralling teenage birth rate is now the highest in West Europe, with about 90,000 teenage conceptions every year.

At present primary schools are expected to have a policy on sex education, but many choose not to teach it. Many schools fail to give 10 and 11-year-olds information about periods, even though one in ten girls starts menstruating before leaving primary school.

  • Teenage Pregnancy - Report from the Social Exclusion Unit (The Publications Centre, PO Box 276, London SW85DT; £15)


    Copyright 1999, Times Newspapers Ltd.