Free parenting classes are not a “nanny state” policy, British prime minister David Cameron said as he unveiled initiatives aimed at helping families.
Cameron said it was ludicrous that people had to train before they were allowed to drive a car but could bring up a baby with no practice at all.
Vouchers for £100-worth of parenting classes are now on offer from high-street chemist Boots and health professionals to parents of children aged up to five in three trial areas.
There will also be a new targeted NHS email and text service aimed at those expecting a baby or in the first month of parenthood.
It is designed to provide “regular, relevant, and tailored” advice such as videos of midwives demonstrating bathing and other techniques, plus advice from other parents.
Initially, the parenting classes will be piloted in Middlesbrough, Camden in north London, and High Peak, Derbyshire — but they could extend throughout England if successful.
Courts can already impose such classes on parents of unruly children, but ministers hope the involvement of Boots will persuade families to see them as just as normal as ante-natal classes.
Subsidised relationship support sessions will also be piloted from July for all expectant parents and those with children up to the age of two.
The initiatives come nine months after the riots that swept across England last summer, for which ministers blamed a breakdown of family discipline.
Cameron said: “Parents are nation-builders.
“It’s through love and sheer hard work that we raise the next generation with the right values.
“That’s why this government is doing everything possible to support parents. This is not the nanny state — it’s the sensible state.
“It’s ludicrous that we should expect people to train for hours to drive a car or use a computer, but when it comes to looking after a baby we tell people to just get on with it.
“I would have loved more guidance when my children were babies.
“And to those who say that government should forget about parenting and families and focus on the big, gritty issues, I’d say these are the big, gritty issues.
“Families don’t just shape us as individuals, they make a stronger society.”
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