Harriet Harman defends £5.9m bid to cut teen pregnancies

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Indy Politics

Commons leader Harriet Harman today defended a £5.9 million Government drive to help cut pregnancies among disadvantaged teenagers which actually saw the numbers go up.

Ms Harman said the the Young People's Development Programme (YPDP), which ran in 27 parts of England between 2004 and 2007, was merely a pilot.

There was no "dishonour" in experimenting with different solutions to the "complex" problem of teenage sex and pregnancy, she told MPs.

She was responding to shadow Commons leader Alan Duncan who said: "This is a sad indictment of the Government's failure to develop a coherent strategy."

The YPDP was based on a similar model in New York and was designed to offer education and support for 13 to 15-year-olds 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 the latest research shows the young women who attended were "significantly" more likely to fall pregnant.

A total of 16 per cent of the YPDP group fell pregnant compared with 6% in the other group, which was a youth programme not receiving YPDP funds.

During questions on future Commons business Mr Duncan said: "The fact is that Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe, more and more young girls are seeking an abortion and the higher rate of sexual activity is leading to an alarming increase in sexually-transmitted infections among teenagers."

Ms Harman said everyone wanted to see a fall in the number of teenage pregnancies, adding: "This is to do with good sex education, this is to do with contraception, this is to do with girls having aspirations for something beyond an early pregnancy...it also involves responsibility on boys as well.

"This was a pilot scheme and the point is it was an experiment that was tried out. That is the whole point of a pilot scheme - to find out if something works.

"There is no dishonour in piloting something to see whether it works and if it doesn't work then acknowledging it and trying to press on and find out what does work."