Teen pregnancy rate a cause for concern

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St Helens has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the North West, alarming new figures reveal.

The borough ranked seventh out of the 39 local authorities in the region, with 123 girls aged under 18 falling pregnant in 2012.

Figures produced by the Office of National Statistics also show the percentage of youngsters keeping their baby rather than undergoing a termination was also one of the highest in the region.

However, the teenage pregnancy rate IS falling, with 147 teens becoming pregnant in 2011 and 180 in 2010.

The 2012 rate stands at 38.1 pregnancy for every 1,000 teenage girl in the borough; falling from 45.4 in 2011.

Council officials credit a number of sexual health awareness scheme for helping reduce the pregnancy rates among teens but admit more work is needed.

Deputy council leader Gareth Cross, who is also the cabinet member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “These are very encouraging figures – and show that by providing easy access to community sexual health services and contraception in community settings we can help young people take a responsible approach to sex and relationships.”

Health scheme on offer in the borough include the TAZ (Teen Advice Zone) outreach team, which supports young people aged 13-18 years to improve their sexual health and wellbeing.

The team offers its services at every secondary school in the borough, including drop-ins, targeted group work, one-to-one support. They also run a scheme offering free condoms to youngsters.

Burnley is rated as the town with the region’s worst teenage pregnancy rates, with 50 pregnancies per 1,000 teenage girls.