AN AREA of Folkestone town centre has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country, new figures have revealed.
Folkestone Harvey Central – which covers the town centre and Dover Road – has been ranked the fifth highest for teen conception rates, per every 1,000 women of childbearing age.
Although the rankings can be announced, the UK Statistics Authority says it is unable to provide numbers by ward to "protect the privacy of individuals".
Folkestone Harvey Central ward councillor David Johnson expressed his concerns about the figures, and said more should be done to deal with the risk of teenage pregnancy.
He added: "We have a very diverse community in the town centre which is brilliant. But what we need to look at is whether these are school-leavers, and if so, that's very serious.
"If that's the case, we need to look at education, going into schools, and giving them the help and advice they need."
Hilary Pannack, chief executive of teenage pregnancy charity Straight Talking, said: "There's a difference between teenage pregnancy and teenage parenthood. Teenage parenthood is usually a combination of low-self-esteem and poverty.
"But, for others, it's a lifestyle choice."
"Coastal towns like Folkestone have communities which tend to take risks – especially those that go on holiday and may never see that person again.
"I don't think there is one factor behind it – but Folkestone is a coastal town and they usually tend to have a higher rate."
On the streets, the figures came as no surprise amid concerns there is a benefit culture in parts of Shepway.
One resident said he was worried that teenagers wanted to grow up too quickly, with pregnancy at a young age almost inevitable.
The man, who did not want to be named, said: "They should know better, but it's no surprise.
"You see these 14 and 15-year-olds, and they come across as 18 or 19 the way they dress and do themselves up. They just don't listen."
What do you think is the cause of the high figures – or are you a teenage mum? Call 01303 851656 or e-mail dean.kilpatrick@KRNmedia.co.uk