Teen fathers' pocket money to be docked

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The Independent Online
TEENAGE BOYS will be targeted by the Child Support Agency and told to pay up if they get girls pregnant, under Downing Street proposals to be announced this month.

Tony Blair will unveil tough new plans to force youths to hand over 15 per cent of their earnings - whether from work or even pocket money - to the mother of their child.

A hard-hitting advertising campaign is to be launched by the Government to hammer home the message that teenage boys must take responsibility for their actions. Young fathers will also be sent into schools to describe the difficulty and expense of bringing up a child, as a warning to their peers.

"The message is that one moment's fun can lead to a 16-year bill for maintenance," one Whitehall source said.

The clampdown on young fathers will be a central plank of the Government's proposals for reducing teenage pregnancy, which have been drawn up by the Prime Minister's social exclusion unit. Mr Blair ordered the investigation because Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe - double Germany's and seven times that of the Netherlands'.

The report will make sweeping recommendations about improving sex education and increasing the availability of contraceptives in schools. As the Independent on Sunday disclosed last December, it will advocate the establishment of specialist hostels, equipped with creches and job-training facilities where teenage mothers can be housed.

Although most attention has so far focused on girls, the report will also highlight the problem of irresponsible teenage fathers. Boys will be warned that they face hefty bills if they get girls pregnant. The Child Support Agency will be told to send officers into schools and colleges to find boys who are failing to pay the mother of their child. Young fathers will be warned that they will have to hand over cash, however low their income, and that money could be deducted from their pay packet at source. In the past, teenagers have been ignored by the CSA, but one Government source said there would be a significant shift of emphasis in future. "Even if you are not earning very much money that does not mean you cannot make a contribution," the insider said.

The move coincides with a shake up of the CSA, which will simplify the way it calculates payments. In future, absent parents will pay 15 per cent for one child, 20 per cent for two and 25 per cent for three or more.

Downing Street was shocked by the scale of the problem of teenage pregnancy. One insider who has seen the report said it was "pretty jaw-dropping stuff - we have a big issue here".

The report is the result of the fourth inquiry by the unit, which has already investigated truancy, rough sleeping and sink estates. It provides the most detailed analysis yet of teenage pregnancy in Britain and sets out a series of possible options for tackling the problem.

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