Teenage Pregnancy: The Case for Coordindation?

The Office of National Statistics has released the latest figures for teenage pregnancy in England and they clearly show that, despite being in the final year of the ten year teenage pregnancy strategy, the target of halving the rate of conceptions to young people under the age of 18 by 2010 will not be achieved. There will be many teenage pregnancy partnership coordinators responding to local politicians, the media and partnership boards to explain the failure to hit the target, indeed the figures that have been released this week show that many areas are actually moving in the wrong direction!!

Teenage pregnancy was one of a number of policy issues that were given special consideration by the Government when the labour administration first came to power. The Government provided funding to support a number of coordination/partnership roles. As well as the teenage pregnancy coordinators, there were lifelong learning partnership managers, crime and disorder partnership mangers and local strategic partnership managers amongst others.

The failure to achieve both national and local targets following the establishment of these single policy, multi agency partnership leads perhaps leads to a questioning of the efficacy of this model of local policy implementation. However, its worth considering the challenging nature of these posts.

The coordinator role is an interesting role sitting as it does between organisation stools. The role rarely carries any direct power and coordinators have to rely on their own influencing skills, the support of a strong partnership chair and willing partners. The coordinators are a classic case of management by stakeholder with people answering to a line manager, a partnership chair, the government office and service leads.

The coordinators rarely had access to significant budgets. Even where funding is available it is difficult to see what could be done which would have a real impact on the issue in question. For example, much of the research about teenage pregnancy shows a clear link with wider issues of deprivation, something clearly outside of the influence of a single coordinator.

The national targets and local targets which have been set were so challenging that its unreasonable to have expected the coordination model to have had a big enough impact. It may have been better to have a local targets that more realistically reflected what was possible.

Despite some of the challenges there are positive examples of the impact which coordination roles have had. They have become local champions for often unpopular issues. The have encouraged partners to look at the use mainstream resources and work with each other. They have brought about a more nuanced understanding of local issues through encouraging partners to improve the policy evidence base.


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