Steve Wakefield on the problems of teenage parents.

“Teenage parents” are often singled out in the press as a group to demonize.  Along with “feckless fathers” they are constantly criticised,  but not in a way that understands the underlying social problems, or in a way that recognises the great steps taken by the last Labour Government in addressing the issue.

Under the Labour Government teenage pregnacies dropped dramatically.  In Feb 2010 Swindon borough reported that 2008 data showed that conceptions for girls age 15-17 years had declined to 36.1 per 1,000 girls of this age –  a reduction of 32.5% from the 1998 baseline.  This was a significant drop compared to previous trends across Swindon and showed a particularly strong trend for the last 3 years. It placed Swindon as the 10th best performing Authority in England, and brings the rate to below the national average for the first time since the Strategy was launched.

but the original target was a reduction of 55% by 2010 (compared to 1998) and there are fears that this wont be reached when the data are published next month.  Will the results even be reported now that the Coalition Goverment has abandoned almost all targets??  Watch this space!

but there is a dismissive attitude towards  the needs of this group. An unhelpful attitude from a minority of  people that is heard from time to time is “if you got yourself pregnant then it is your own fault”. There are many reasons and circumstances surrounding why young girls become pregnant.  It must be borne in mind that they did not do find themselves in this situation by themselves, and all teenage parents need supporting not being lectured too after the event.

And how are the cuts going to affect this target.  Teenage parents are more likely to have postnatal depression and other health problems.  I know from my work in the public sector over the years that this group are more likely to see their own children existing at poverty levels, they are less likely to perform highly in school and to often find themselves or their children involved with the criminal justice system. The children of teenage parents are more likely to repeat this cycle.

The truth is that teenage parents need support as teenage pregnancy is more likely to cost money in the generation to come. That is why we must keep teenage parents and their support off the cuts agenda. We cannot afford to cut down on this provision cutting this support from council  budgets will cost more in the long run.  It is almost certainly likely that a cut now will have to be back filled later at even higher costs. Short term-ism around teenage parents will short change  the next ageneration of children and for some children have an impact on them and their families  all the way to adulthood.

We can prevent early parenthood by education and programmes and yes we can get parents back into education and work, but these programmes also cost money. If we are not vigilant about cuts happening  in every corner of Swindon and only voice our opposition after the cut has happened. Crying woe after the event will  be poor compensation for those carrying the burden of the Libdem Conservative coalition government’s “austerity policies.”

This is an issue that young people need to  be making their voices heard on like they are on tuition fees, children sports. The  cutting of social investment will hit their generation and their friends and families the hardest for years to come. They can show solidarity in fighting cuts by adding their weight to this pressing issue and protest about the cutsthat will shortly be impacting on their generation, families and friends.  Stop the cuts now it will be to late the day after tomorrow!

Cllr Steve Wakefield