By Neil PuffettChildren & Young People Now29 September 2009
Teenage pregnancy experts have reacted with concern to Gordon Brown’s announcement that all 16-and 17-year-old parents who receive benefits will be housed in a network of supervised homes.
In his address to the Labour Party conference, Brown announced the measure but gave no indication of how it would work in practice.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, described the announcement as “an ill-thought out sop to an ill-informed section of public opinion”.
“This measure ignores the huge differences between individual young people’s ability and support to care for their children and does not address the complex problems they may face,” she added.
Simon Blake, chief executive of sex advice charity Brook, said the speech left a lot of questions to be answered. “We are all absolutely committed to high quality support with housing available for young women but that is very different to the way this has been described today and I’m really concerned,” he said.
“If it’s about any form of compulsion then that is obviously a new policy approach and we have no knowledge about it being a new policy approach. This reinforces stereotypes of young women getting placed in council flats and undermines the excellent work going on across the country which has led to decreases in conception and birth rates.”
During his speech Gordon Brown said it was time to “address a problem that for too long has gone unspoken”.
“It cannot be right for a girl of 16 to get pregnant, be given the keys to a council flat and be left on her own,” he added.
Some 90 minutes after the Labour leader left the conference stage in Brighton, civil servants in London had yet to be fully briefed on the announcement. A spokeswoman for the Department of Children, Schools and Families, said the department had no detail on the policy.
Lucy Lloyd, director of communications for the Family and Parenting Institute, said the announcement struck her as “frightening and draconian”. “It harks back to the bad old days when teen parents were hidden away and had their babies in secret,” she said.
But she added there could be positives in the policy. “In situations where the family relationship does break down the prospect of living alone in small accommodation can be devastating for a parent and child,” she said. “If you look at it in that context this proposal could make a lot of sense. But we need to know more about how it would work in practice and in particular how a young person could maintain links with their home environment