A £5.9m government drive to cut pregnancies among disadvantaged teenagers failed when numbers actually increased, research published in the British Medical Journal suggests.

The Young People's Development Programme (YPDP) ran in 27 parts of England in 2004-07, based on a similar model in New York. It was designed to offer education and support to young people aged 13 to 15 who were deemed at risk of exclusion from school, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy. A total of 2,371 teenagers took part in the programme, at a cost of £2,500 each.

But research out today shows that young women who attended the programme were "significantly" more likely to fall pregnant than those in a comparison group. A total of 16 per cent of the YPDP group fell pregnant compared with 6 per cent in the other group – a youth programme not receiving YPDP funds. This was despite those in the YPDP group receiving education about sex and drugs, being no more sexually active than the other group and some sites distributing free condoms.

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