Boys as young as 12 are to be issued with condom "credit cards" allowing them to pick up free contraception at football grounds, barber’s shops and scout huts.

Condoms will be distributed at places where boys congregate, to spare them the embarrassment of visiting sexual health clinics or GPs’ surgeries or facing a shop assistant at a pharmacist's counter.

They will be able to collect the condoms by showing a plastic card issued to them after they have attended a safe-sex lesson, according to new government guidance. Boys who take advantage of the scheme will not have to give their names or answer questions about their sex lives.

The scheme is intended to cut teenage pregnancies and persuade boys to take greater responsibility for contraception.

However, critics believe it will encourage children to be sexually active from a younger age. Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe and the government has failed in its pledge to halve rates of pregnancy in girls under the age of 18.

The plastic cards are already used by some local authorities, but will be made available to all boys in Britain aged 13 and over after the guidance is published in the autumn.

Councils will, however, have discretion to offer the cards to younger boys who may already be sexually active, and to instil safe-sex attitudes at an early age in those who are not.

The strategy is being drawn up for the Department for Children, Schools and Families by the Brook advisory service, which offers contraceptive advice to teenagers. There is concern that sex education has been too focused on teenage girls, who tend already to take full responsibility for using contraception.

The condom card, or C-card, scheme is intended to encourage boys to learn about safe sex as well.

They will be given a lesson about the use of condoms before being issued with the card.

Boys who attend additional talks about sexually transmitted diseases will get a stamp on their card, which those running the scheme hope will become a status symbol.

Simon Blake, chief executive of Brook, said the C-card would make condom use “an everyday reality”.

He said the new government guidance would be designed to make boys more confident about using contraception and asking for advice on sex.

Click here to read the full report from the London Times.