Promiscuous scroungers or loving parents? Teenage mums fight back

Britain's young mothers feel they don't deserve constant negative coverage and will this week tell the Prime Minister so

They are labelled promiscuous, branded as benefit scroungers who have fallen pregnant in order to bag a council flat, cruelly nicknamed "pram faces" and mocked by everyone from their peers to politicians. But do the country's teenage mothers deserve such a bad reputation? This week a group of teenage mums will meet the Prime Minister to argue otherwise.

They are offended by what they see as the widespread negative portrayal of teenage motherhood – particularly Gordon Brown's proposal last October that teenage mums need to be placed in supported hostels and taught parenting skills. A handful of these young women interviewed for The Independent on Sunday say they speak for thousands of others in their belief that Britain's young mothers should be treated with more respect.

The country's teenage pregnancy rate is the highest in Western Europe, with 42,900 girls under 18 becoming pregnant in England and Wales in 2007, and 4,050 in Scotland in the same year. While this is frequently cited as evidence of social breakdown, many believe there is no need to despair.

"They are much maligned. Some sections of the media whip up opinions that are extremely negative, and there are so many TV programmes that prey on the image of teen parents," says Hilary Pannack, chief executive of the sex education charity Straight Talking. "I don't believe the majority of teenage parents are any worse than the rest of us. Ninety-five per cent of teenagers who come to us go on to do further education, and some of them are doing degrees and MAs."

Although the Government has failed to meet its 1998 pledge to halve teen pregnancy by 2010, teen pregnancy rates have fallen by 12.6 per cent during that time. The highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the country can be found in the neighbouring towns of Hartlepool and Middlesbrough in the north-east of England.

While some may be optimistic about the achievements of young mothers, others are less enthused. A spokesperson from the Taxpayers' Alliance said: "Taxpayers are concerned about teenage mums, particularly about a benefit system that offers financial incentives which encourage single motherhood. Taxpayers don't want to target single mums but they are concerned about a benefit system that offers such negative incentives."

'I didn't have any focus before my son was born – he guides me'

Amanda Mbiru, 18, Hounslow Mother to one-year-old Dontaye

"I was just about to do my GCSEs when I found out I was pregnant. A lot of my mum's friends gave me disapproving looks when I said I was pregnant, but I decided that I was going to keep the baby. I felt that I'd got myself into the situation and thought that I should just deal with it. I took a year out and now I'm in college full time, studying health and social care. I'm planning to be a nursery teacher, so I'll be studying for a few years more.

"Before I gave birth, social services told me that the baby might be taken away from me because they didn't think I'd manage, due to my age. I argued my case with them, and I've proved myself. My life completely changed when I had Dontaye, but it didn't change for my boyfriend. That is one of the reasons we split up; he just wanted to carry on living his life like before. If I didn't have Dontaye I don't think I'd be at college at all. I didn't have any focus before he was born; he guides me. I want him to have a better life than I have had; everything I do is for him."

'There is a lot of stereotyping'

Klaudia Kublik, 19, New Maldon, Surrey Mother to four-month-old Justyna

"I am training to be a peer educator with a teenage pregnancy charity. I want to show young people what it is really like to be a teenage mum. In schools they tell you how not to have a baby, but they don't tell you why not to. People think you get a council flat and lots of benefits, but that is just not true. I still live with my family, but as it is a small house the baby's crying wakes everyone up. So I'm planning to move into a supervised hostel for young women in March.

"I'd like to go on to university and be a teaching assistant. There are lots of young women who give up their whole lives when they have a baby. Tomorrow I'm going out for a friend's birthday and it'll be the first time I've been out since my daughter Justyna was born, four months ago. There is a lot of stereotyping that goes on. People who see a pregnant teenage girl think it is a one-night stand, but lots of girls are in relationships."

'People are surprised there's a father'

Naomi Box, 17, and partner Craig Shatcliff, 21 Parents to eight-month-old Tyler

"I'm still with the father of my baby, which I think surprises some people. People do look down their nose on you when you have a baby so young, but you can't let it get you down. We'd been going out for a year and a half when I got pregnant. My partner sees his son most days and we are happy together; we feel like a family even though we don't live together. I live with my family but am moving out soon. It is a big step having a baby, and it does put your relationship under some strain. We don't have much money.

"When I found out I was pregnant, I was shocked and just started crying. Craig was shocked too. He is training to be a mechanic and is on a low wage, but will be qualified soon. At the moment I look after my son full time, as I don't like the idea of leaving him with a stranger when he is so young. I left school at 16 and I used to work in administration. I would like another job like that when he is older."

'A baby changed me for the better'

Rochell Burton, 19, Birmingham Mother to three-year-old Reashay

"Having a baby has changed me for the better; babies make you grow up much quicker. I don't know what I'd be doing if I didn't have Reashay. I don't think people realise how much work it is to be a young mum; I don't have any help from family and the baby's father sees him only occasionally. I dropped out of school when I was 15 with no GCSEs, and then got kicked out of the family house at 16. I went to live in a hostel, which is when I fell pregnant. I had morning sickness and had to drop out of college when I was pregnant.

"Now I live in a council flat and am studying English and maths. I need qualifications if I'm going to be able to get a job and support my son. I don't want to be living off benefits any longer than I have to. I don't want my son to miss out on things because I can't afford them. I want him to grow up and go to college. He goes to full-time nursery school, which is very good. It gives me time to study and time to myself."

'People would throw stones at me'

Nicole Davies, 16, Birmingham Mother to one-year-old Tyoesse

"When I was 15 and pregnant, people would throw stones at me, and say that I wouldn't do anything with my life. I want to prove them wrong; when I'm driving around in my nice car I'll show them. I dropped out of school when I was 15, but since I had my son I've started a college course. I've been studying hair and beauty for the past seven months. It lasts two years and at the end of it I'd like to be a beautician, and hopefully own my own salon eventually.

"When I found out I was pregnant, people kept telling me to get rid of him, and I'd planned to give the baby up for adoption, but when I had him I couldn't do it. I live in a hostel. It was fine, but he has got asthma, and every time I cook his cough gets bad, and now he's starting to crawl there isn't much space. Looking after him was difficult at first, because there was no one to show me what to do."

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Chosen to lead the women's wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, the wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding the 90-year old
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution