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22 May 2012, 06:00
Norfolk's teenage pregnancy rate has fallen to its lowest level in 12 years.
A report to Norfolk County Council's Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel highlights that 45 fewer teenagers conceived in 2010 than the previous year, bringing the rate of teenage pregnancy in the county to 34.1 per 1,000 - compared with 36.7 per 1,000 in 2009.
It is the lowest level teenage pregnancy has reached in the county since 1998 and follows an increase between 2008 and 2009. Norfolk remains below the national figure of 35.4 conceptions per 1,000.
The figures, which are published in a performance report being presented to the panel on Thursday 10 May, follow three years of intensive work by Norfolk County Council and its partners in the NHS, schools and the voluntary sector to implement the county's teenage pregnancy strategy, which aims to ensure young people have access to good sex and relationships education, advice and contraception. The strategy also focuses on providing specific support to more vulnerable young people, such as those not in education, employment and training, looked after children and teenagers who are already parents.
Alison Thomas, Cabinet Member for Children's Services at Norfolk County Council, said: "It is good news for Norfolk's young people that teenage pregnancy levels have fallen again. We know that teenage parents and the babies born to them face greater difficulties in life in terms of their health and education and we want young people to have the information they need to make good decisions about their future.
"The C Card free condom scheme and targeted work with looked after children and care leavers is making a difference but the teenage pregnancy rate is still too high both in Norfolk and nationally and we need to continue to get the message across to young people that they have choices and there are much more positive options open to them, in the range of education and training opportunities available.
"Being a teenage mum or dad can be extremely tough financially, physically and emotionally and we and our partners want to do what we can to ensure young people have high aspirations and make the best decisions for their future.
A particular success in helping to reduce teenage conception rates has been the development of Norfolk's Family Nurse Partnerships, which are funded by Norfolk Community Health and Care, East Coast Community Health Care and Norfolk County Council. These provide intensive health visitor support to young parents, giving them advice on contraception and helping them to improve the health and well-being of their children.
Anna Morgan, NCH&C's Director of Operations, said: "Working closely with our partners, NCH&C has developed a good number of services to support young people to make informed decisions about sex and contraception, and I believe that in part has really helped to achieve this drop in teenage pregnancy rates.
"For example, our expert school nurses are ideally placed to help children, young people and parents access the support and services they need, confidentially. They can provide support for young people on personal relationships, stress management, and risk taking behaviour.
"The school nurse can provide the young person with a one-to-one confidential opportunity to learn the skills that can help them not only to just say "no" to sex, but to help them in delaying decisions to start sexual relationships until they are ready.
"Meanwhile, our innovative Family Nurse Partnership service offers support to first time mums under the age of 18 from their early pregnancy all the way through until their child is two-years-old.
"The team has proven to be very successful at improving pregnancy outcomes for both mother and child, but another significant aspect of the team's work is to encourage young parents to plan future pregnancies carefully and, when appropriate, to leave a gap between having one child and a subsequent child."