Received a presentation from Justin Varney, Joint Assistant Director of Health Improvement, Children & Young People providing an overview of local teenage conception, birth and abortion rates. The presentation highlighted the challenges for achieving targets to reduce under 18 conceptions and what the service was doing to address the issue. It also presented the key findings of a consultation carried out with young people.
Although since 2002, there has been a decrease in the conception rates, Barking & Dagenham is still higher than the London Average. It was noted that some progress had been made in achieving lower rates such as under 16 conceptions within the borough.
The local data indicated that majority of fathers were under the age of 18, the youngest was 15 years old. It was identified that some of the fathers were youth offenders.
In 2006, a Sex Relationship and Education (SRE) survey was conducted in secondary schools indicating that almost 50% of pupils were dissatisfied with the amount of curriculum time dedicated to SRE. 49% had poor awareness of where to access free contraception, compared to fewer than 5% having higher knowledge on contraception/sexual health service. There was a lower percentage of young people receiving information on sex and relationships from their parents.
Members noted that a consultation with the BAD Youth Forum took place in 2008, indicating that teaching quality for SRE needed to be improved as teachers needed to be more confident about teaching sex education and that the education should be provided earlier than Year 10.
Various reasons for failure to reach targets were highlighted. Members noted various activities and measures in place to achieve lower targets and enhance awareness of access to contraception service for young people. The service would be working with school governors and approaching more schools to raise awareness.
Members enquired whether an infant care simulation system was in place for children for use in teaching the realities, responsibilities and constraints inherent in caring for young babies. Officers stated that they would report back to members with further information.
Members were concerned regarding the high percentage of birth rates among white mothers compared to ethnic minority groups and the number of relationship breakups after the birth.
Members also enquired about the lack of sex/relationship information given to young people by their parents. Officers stated that this issue was being addressed and a program for parents would be provided which would include a six week course on how to talk to their children about sex education and encourage better communication with their children.
Members raised concerns regarding most of the services located at Barking and the lack of awareness among young mothers of any services available in Dagenham. Officers stated that in efforts to spread services across the borough, it would be working closely with BHRT on how to make all services accessible to young people.
A member of the public suggested providing sex/relationship education in primary schools in order to start at an early stage rather than at secondary schools which may be too late. The scheme was already practiced in a number of primary schools in London. Members were also suggested that children should be checked regularly by GPs to identify risks. Furthermore, there should be an informal way to introduce children to sex/relationship education.
A further report on progress with teenage pregnancy strategy was submitted to Minister for Children, Young People and Families on 10 February 2009.
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