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Monday, May 10, 1999 Published at 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK


Health

School nurses 'may dispense the Pill'

Teenage mothers: 'Time for young fathers to give more support'

A report into how to cut teenage pregnancies is likely to recommend allowing school nurses to prescribe the Pill to schoolgirls under 16.

The Department of Health has told the BBC that the proposal will be considered by ministers soon.

It is likely to be the most controversial measure recommended by the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) as a way of reducing teenage pregnancies.

The SEU report is also likely to recommend a crackdown on teenage fathers, who will come under renewed pressure to provide child support for their children.

Commenting on the proposal to allow school nurses to prescribe the Pill, Alison Hadley, of the Brook Advisory Centres, said: "We have to remember that the vast majority of teenagers who become pregnant are not planning to do so, but they have not got to a contraceptive service in time.

"Research across the world shows that linking school-based sex education to contraceptive services certainly does help to reduce teenage pregnancies.

"It not just a question of school nurses handing out pills like smarties at all, it would be part of a much wider strategy where young people were given lots of opportunities to discuss the issues and relationships so that when they did decide to have sex it would be for the right reasons, and then they could actually get into the service very easily so that they could use contraception before they start taking risks."

However, Nicholas Coot, a spokesman for the Catholic Church, said such a move would reduce parental influence on their children.

He said: "The government says it wants to help children resist pressure to have sex, but in fact they are increasing the pressure in a very significant way - they are removing the easiest way of saying no, which is the fear of getting pregnant."

The crackdown on teenage fathers is meant to bring home to young men the consequences of their actions.

According to press leaks, the Child Support Agency will be told to focus on young fathers who don't do enough to support their children.

The paper suggests boys could even be forced to make contributions out of their pocket money.

The report from the Social Exclusion Unit will be linked to a hard-hitting advertising campaign.

UK has highest rate

The UK has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and abortion in Western Europe, and is second only to the US in the developed world.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the birth rate for girls aged 15-19 in England and Wales is 38.8 per 1,000.

That is twice the German rate, four times the French levels and seven times more than the Netherlands.

Almost one in 100 girls aged 13-15 become pregnant each year, with half having abortions.

'Education welcome'

The teenage abortion rate in the UK is currently 20.2 per 1,000 girls, compared to 2.4 in Germany and 7.9 in France.

The 12-strong unit of experts is drawn from the civil service, police business and voluntary sectors.

Other reported recommendations have included hostels for teenage mothers, and taking young mothers into schools to educate girls about sex, and the disadvantages of young, unmarried motherhood.

A spokeswoman for the Brook Advisory Centre service said: "We would welcome anything that promotes better education and communication of young people."



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