BY CHRISTINA WHITE
A LEADING natural family planning service is to close after the Government withdrew funding, it was revealed this week.
Fertility UK, formerly the NFP arm of Marriage Care, confirmed on Tuesday that its service will be closing after core funding was withdrawn by the Department of Health.
In a statement, Marriage Care said efforts to find alternative funding had not been successful.
"Sadly Marriage Care is not in a position to fund the ongoing work of this service from its general resources. A Marriage Care Executive decision has been made that Marriage Care will no longer run a fertility awareness/NFP service," it said.
No reasons were given for the withdrawal of funds but there is speculation that the cut-back reflects the government's overriding concern to deal with the problem of teenage pregnancies. This week a controversial new strategy to extend contraceptive provision to schools was revealed.
Interim fundingwas provided to facilitate the closure of the service.
Terry Prendergast, Chief Executive of Marriage Care, said all those involved in the service had been "shocked and surprised" by the sudden withdrawal of funds.
"We had only just asked for extra funding for research projects, To find that the funding had suddenly been cut was a shock. I can only assume that there has been a shift of emphasis but we don't think there is anything sinister.
He continued: "We all know, within the voluntary sector , that the Treasury is driving an efficiency campaign. Every= thing is under review. Our feeling is that the focus is on teenage pregnancies and a lot of money is being redirected."
Fertility UK became independent of Marriage Care in March this year after Marriage Care stated it would return its focus to marriage preparation and counselling services. It was funded for six years by the DoH.
But there was growing unease at Fertility UK's close relationship with the Family Planning Association and concern that NFP was being marketed as just another contraceptive option. Critics said the service had lost direction and did not reflect Catholic teaching and principles .
Marriage Care has confirmed that it will continue to maintain the Fertility UK website www.fertilityuk.org providing information on NFP for the public and health care professionals.