Friday, February 24, 2006

Morning After Moment

Walk into Margate High Street, Northdown Road or even Ramsgate this morning and you’ll probably see the same picture, lots of teenagers pushing prams, their life prospects and those of their children trapped in the cycle of welfare payments that makes Britain Europe’s leader in teenage pregnancy and the social problems that accompany it.

It’s reported today that the £150 million campaign to reduce pregnancies among young girls has been an embarrassing failure and now ministers are under pressure to close the discredited Teenage Pregnancy Unit.

Government statistics show a rising number of girls under 14 becoming pregnant missing its target of cutting the under-18 pregnancy rate by 15 per cent from its 1998 level.

Beverly Hughes, the minister for children, young people and families has defended the Government's strategy of making the morning-after pill, condoms and sex education more easily available but perhaps she’s never walked along the length of Margate High Street on a weekday?

Hughes is particularly pleased with the "significant reduction" in the conception rates for younger teenagers. There has, she says, been an overall decline of 15.2 per cent in conceptions for under-16s since 1998, she said. The decline for under-18s was 11 per cent - short of the 15 per cent interim target.

"Our teenage pregnancy strategy focuses on deprived areas with high rates of conceptions, so I am also pleased that overall it is high-rate areas that have shown most progress."

Critics however say the fall in pregnancy "rates" - the number of pregnancies per thousand - could be attributed in part to an increasing population. This includes a large number of Muslim families where teenage pregnancy is rare.

Back in the old days, the 1980s, doctors regarded pregnant women over 30 as geriatric mothers but the term now used is "elderly prima gravida" (older mother, first baby) for anyone over 35. Meanwhile, it seems that in Britain, the near abolition of marriage and the nuclear family as we knew it, is certainly adding to the population but not quite in the constructive ways that government might have imagined.

On another note, a poll by You.Gov shows that parents (in London) are prepared to pay up to £43,000 extra for a house in the catchment area of a good state school, the national average is £15,000 or more as regardless of government efforts, to prevent it with social engineering, there is a visible polarisation, as aspirational parents attempt to achieve the best possible start for their children, as it has always been so since the first classes in writing in the Biblical city of Ur.


Anonymous said...

It strikes me that throwing money at a problem is not always the best solution - especially when that money has been hard earned by the working masses! Another point is that as nowadays spawning illegitimate children is no longer frowned upon socially as it was in days gone , we need to take a proper look at the welfare system and possibly take our leads from other countries where this kind of thing is discouraged financially.

Kas Trate said...

A pregnancy by a youngster in Thanet is the fastest way to get out of the family home into your own pad with all the support that our welfare state can give you.

The fastest way to cut teenage pregnancy rates is to open State Homes for single mums where a room with small annex for baby is provided and all other facilities are communal. A block 'czarina'; allocated daily cleaning tasks, central meals and a safe no male environment. See if that appeals as an alternative to your own pad paid for by the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm camps for single mums great. Of course not all teenage mums are single and not all single mums are teenage but let's not ruin the opportunity to start rounding folk up and putting them in camps. Saves money better spent on asylum seekers, criminals and other low-lifes.

Anonymous said...

Without returning to the good old days where you was drummed out of town for being single and preganant, or putting single teenage mums in camps which I could never agree with, we need to make it to be seen as 'uncool' to be in that situation in the first place as with drugs. If a leading band would turn and say drugs sucked they'd take a lot of kids with them. None of them have the bottle though. In the US there is a youth movement against even losing one's virginity before marriage. These aren't happy clappy christian types, these are average looking Grunge kids. Mind you religion is more important in the US than here.

Kas Trate said...

You miss the point Anon of 9.49pm.
In a civilised society we have a duty of care. How that care is provided should be costed. A HOME is not a camp. It is not a question of force or rounding up at all. Society can provide the care in a communal home it is the choice of the teenage mum to use it or not. Taxpayers do not have a duty to provide a flat or house and full financial support when the pregnancy is a matter of choice as well. Isn't it about time that we all accept the simple premise that individuals who make free choices should be prepared to pay the consequences of that choice and not require the rest of us to pay for it?

James Maskell said...

The single mother issue is one of those issues with a passionate debate that has raged for some time. Society doesnt want to have to provide welfare benefits for single mothers as it costs a lot of money. However single mothers require some form of financial support as they cant work as much as they would like to support the family.

Ive long believed that the state cannot abandon single mothers, especially teenage single mothers. Funnilly enough, the issue of single mothers was touched on in a debate I was involved in last month. I said the same thing Im saying here. You cannot punish single mothers for being single mothers.

Whether it be by choice or not, the state cannot just stand by and tell a single mother "You got yourself in the situation, you get yourself out". As Kas Trate says, we have a duty of care. The responsible thing to do is to support them.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that we have a duty of care. That said - this can only be stretched so far and to keep increasing the level of handouts for people who continually produce children with no means of supporting them is just plain wrong - it is not fair on the majority of us who take responsibility for our own actions and pay our way.

James Maskell said...

Before anyone thinks I'm defending this Government, I think it needs to be said that this Government has taxed the poor harder than ever before. Even Germany isnt as bad as Britain tax wise. Cutting taxes would boost the economy, creating jobs. But of course Prime Minister Brown doesnt want that.

Child Benefit does go down after the first child. There are various levels of the child tax credit that are means tested.

It goes without saying that the whole system relating to benefits and tax credits needs a complete overhaul to make it more fair. Its far too complex. Not only that but the Government takes your money then decides whether you deserve some of that money back...why doesnt it just tax you less?