BARNSLEY is one of the ‘worst performing’ local authorities for preventing teenage pregnancies - with rates almost double the national average - according to a council report.
The report - discussed at yesterday’s meeting of the authority’s Children and Young People’s Trust Executive Group - recommends the re-establishment of a partnership to work in schools and settings across Barnsley while supporting young parents, particularly in more deprived areas identified to increase risk of unplanned pregnancy.
It notes the borough’s teenage pregnancy prevention strategy has ‘not been active since June 2019’.
While national figures for under-18 conceptions have dropped by almost two-thirds since 1998, Barnsley’s have fallen at a much slower rate, by 54 per cent.
In 2019, the rate per 1,000 stood at 27.7, compared to the regional average 19.3 and national average of 15.7.
Under-18 conceptions are those that result in either live or stillbirth, or legal abortion, dated back to the woman’s age at the time of conception.
With regards abortions, Barnsley’s rate is 14.5 per 1,000 - higher than the regional average of 9.2 and the national average of 8.6.
The report said 52.4 per cent of under-18 conceptions led to abortions in 2019.
It noted there are ‘large geographical differences’ across the borough, with 2016/18 under-18 conception rates ranging from 2.8 per 1,000 in Penistone East to 51 per 1,000 in Dearne South.
Up to 2019, bosses collaborated with a range of organisations including Spectrum and the British Pregnancy Advice Service.
“The 2018 and 2019 Barnsley’s teenage pregnancy prevention (TPP) strategy was well co-ordinated with high level of engagement and support across the borough,” said the report.
“This resulted in the development of coherent range of services to improve teenage pregnancy prevention across Barnsley.
“Over late summer 2021 a new Public Health England tool was used to conduct a self-evaluation of TPP activity.
“This demonstrated an ongoing strong commitment to the teenage pregnancy prevention agenda despite the impact of Covid-19 on young people, staff, services, and systems.”
A web-based portal is set to launch this year to allow schoolchildren to access ‘age-appropriate’ support.
The latest Department of Health and Social Care figures reveal 96 people aged 19 or younger had an abortion in 2020 - 39 of them aged under 18.
But the 837 abortions carried out in Barnsley throughout the year is the highest since 2011, the earliest date for which records are available - with researchers noting nationally, abortions are at their highest-ever point since the Abortion Act 1967 made them legal in certain conditions.
Those aged between 20 and 24 accounted for the majority, at 233 - the highest number on record for that age group.
Barnsley’s proportion of repeat abortions, 41.1 per cent, is the highest in South Yorkshire.
“Barnsley’s teenage pregnancy data demonstrates that this is an area for improvement,” added the report.
“There are a number of wards where rates remain stubbornly high.
“These wards also have high rates of interdependent vulnerability markers which manifestly make teenage pregnancy as both cause and consequence of educational, health and social inequality for young people and their children.
“Providing targeted support for young people to develop safe, healthy relationships and prevent unplanned pregnancy is key to enabling them to fulfil their aspirations and potential.
“Prevention of teenage pregnancy requires a whole system approach, so there is no ‘wrong door’ for a young person seeking advice, guidance and support.”