Talking to curb teenage tears Parents have been urged to talk to their children about sex and relationships in an attempt to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies.

In Brighton and Hove, 4.4 per cent of under-18s became pregnant in 2004, above the national level of 4.2 per cent.

The Government target is to halve the rate from its 1998 baseline of 4.8 per cent in Brighton and Hove by 2010.

In East Sussex, 3.7 per cent of 15 to 17-year-olds became pregnant in 2004, down from 3.9 per cent in 1998. In West Sussex, the figure was three per cent, down from 3.7 per cent in 1998.

On Tuesday, the Government announced urgent moves to tackle the continuing challenge of teenage pregnancies as part of its wider social exclusion action plan.

A revised strategy, aimed at tackling the "underlying causes" of under-18 conception, includes advice to parents to talk to their children more about sex.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "The key thing is getting parents more involved and comfortable in talking with their children about sex and relationships.

"We know from young people themselves that they recognise that talking with their parents about sex is important and can make a significant difference."

The strategy also aims to provide better sex education and access to contraception for those young people judged likely to become pregnant.

Social Exclusion Minister Pat McFadden said: "The message for young people should be one of prevention but they should be made aware of access to contraception if there is a risk of teen pregnancy."

The Government launched the first part of its social exclusion action plan to help what Mr McFadden called the "bottom two per cent of households locked in a state of lack of opportunity".

Girls from the poorest backgrounds are ten times more likely to become teenage mothers and young parents are more likely to end up unemployed,suffer mental health problems and see their own children go on to have babies in their teens. Teen pregnancy costs the NHS an estimated £63 million a year.

Under the plan, to be piloted in ten areas of the country yet to be identified, families with "multiple disadvantages" will receive a targeted programme of support, including extra visits from health professionals from before their child is born until they reach the age of two.

Mr McFadden said that the Government was offering a "package of benefits to address deep-seated social exclusion" at a time when it could still make a difference.