Caroline Farrow is author of the Catechesis of Caroline blog.
Imagine if the Government introduced lessons regarding safe drinking as part of the National Curriculum and poured millions of pounds into a scheme providing free access to alcohol in order to combat the increasing scourge of teenage drinking.
There would understandably be uproar from all quarters. The strategy would backfire spectacularly; encouraged by their teachers, increasing numbers of teenagers would begin to experiment with alcohol under the misapprehension that this was perfectly safe and acceptable, with disastrous consequences.
Far–fetched though it sounds, this is exactly what happened when the last government attempted to reduce rates of teen conception. In 1999 Tony Blair pumped £280 million into the creation of the Teenage Pregnancy Unit, which aimed to reduce the numbers of teen pregnancies by 15% in 2005 and by 50% in 2010. According to statistics published by the ONS, in 1999 there were a total of 49,900 teen conceptions.
Five years later, instead of the hoped-for reduction, the rate had risen by 0.6% to 50,200. In 2009, when it became clear that this figure was little more than a pipe-dream, Ed Balls announced an extra £20.5 million to be spent on contraceptive services. The latest full-year figures available from the ONS, show that in 2009 teen conceptions numbered 45,500, a risible 8.8% reduction on the 1999 numbers.