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Girls offering sex for drugs and alcohol

Teenage girls are offering sexual favours in exchange for alcohol and drugs, health and education experts have warned.

Meanwhile, teenage fathers are being sidelined throughout Scotland by professionals who are too focused on the needs of the mother.

Holyrood's Health and Sport Committee heard evidence for its inquiry into teenage pregnancy from health and education representatives from five Scottish councils, who have seen links between sexual activity and drug and alcohol misuse.

Robert Naylor, director of education and leisure services at Renfrewshire Council, said: "We certainly have instances where our homelink workers are working with young women who have self-esteem issues and may be involved at weekends in offering sexual favours in return for drugs or alcohol.

"Therein, you have a cycle where you really need to work with young people on their self-esteem, their sense of self-worth, as well as steering them away from alcohol and drugs.

"These things often go together, particularly where drink is involved, and young women are getting themselves into situations because of drink and because of desires to belong and fit into a peer group that is leading them into these kinds of behaviours.

"That is partly driven by the modern media and the depiction of women in how they ought to behave."

All of the witnesses had seen links between sexual behaviour, socio-economic deprivation, alcohol misuse and drugs.

Marian Flynn, Glasgow City Council's strategic manager for young people's sexual health, said: "There's no doubt in the evidence that teenage pregnancy occurs in more deprived communities.

"We know that in many young people's early sexual experiences alcohol is often involved, more than substances.

"Young people's behaviour isn't that different from adults' behaviour and there's a cultural issue, generally speaking, in terms of how we deal with sex and sexuality where there is that association of people needing Dutch courage or using alcohol to excuse behaviours."

The committee also heard yesterday that not enough is being done to engage teenage fathers, despite evidence most want to play a part in their children's lives.

SNP MSP Mark McDonald said: "Often the focus is very much on the mother, for obvious reasons, but she didn't get pregnant by herself. One thing we learned in Dundee was that very often the father of the child is not of school age, is not in the school system, but sometimes they are."

Ms Flynn said: "More can be done, definitely, in terms of encouraging fathers to get involved.

"What we have found is that where they are there, and they are there in the majority of cases in our support base, they do want to get involved, but sometimes they are sidelined by a series of professionals where the emphasis is very much on the mother."

Highland Council health improvement policy manager Cath King said: "Young men have been sidelined and we need to do more work both nationally and locally to encourage young men to take on nurturing roles. That's absent to a great extent."

Dundee City Council education quality improvement officer Tracey Stewart said: "I agree with other comments that have been made. More work can be done with young fathers."

The meeting followed a separate submission that urged the Scottish Government to consider making the morning-after pill available in schools.

School nurses could dispense condoms and emergency contraception, which would help towards reducing teenage pregnancy rates, the Scottish Sexual Health Lead Clinicians Group suggested.

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