Chemists in Trial to Give Pounds 100 Token to Obtain Lessons in Parenting; VOUCHERS WILL GIVE PARENTS BEST ADVICE ON UPBRINGING

Article excerpt

Byline: CLARE HUTCHINSON

PARENTS in Wales could be given free vouchers for parenting classes, in plans to be announced by the coalition Government.

The pounds 100 vouchers will be distributed through Boots, the high street chemist, in an attempt to stem the breakdown of family discipline blamed by ministers for last year's riots.

According to a London Sunday newspaper the scheme - known as Can Parent - is the idea of David Cameron's strategy adviser Steve Hilton, who is leaving No 10 for a year as a lecturer in California.

The Department for Education, which will oversee the scheme, has confirmed that an announcement is imminent.

"We want all families to be able to easily access excellent information on parenting. We will be making an announcement about this next week," a spokeswoman said.

Under the plan parents will be entitled to up to 10 two-hour sessions of advice on how best to bring up their children.

Initially it will be piloted in three areas - Middlesbrough, Camden in north London and High Peak, Derbyshire - but could be extended throughout England and Wales if it proves a success.

Parents will be able to use the vouchers to buy lessons from independent organisations such as the National Childcare Trust.

Currently the courts can impose such classes on the parents of unruly children, but ministers hope that the involvement of Boots will persuade families to see them as normal as antenatal classes.

ANo 10 official told the newspaper: "We are using Boots to hand out the vouchers because it is all part of the process of making it a normal, respectable experience. If we asked people to queue up at their local social security offices to get them, no-one would be interested. Going to a parenting class should be as normal and pleasant as going a cookery or a line-dancing class."

The scheme was defended by Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi, who said all parents could be helped at times.

"The one thing I hugely valued before I had my daughter were the classes which tell you what happens when a baby comes home, how to tie nappies, how to deal with sleeping patterns," she told the Murnaghan programme on Sky News.

"Well, I think what I would also have benefited from is parenting classes where once those children start to grow up, you need to know what their developmental stages should be. "This is a job we all go into, probably the biggest most serious job we do as individuals - and yet we seem to have no training for it.

"I think it is right that where parents feel they could benefit from parenting classes we encourage and support that." Lady Warsi said there was "no such thing as a perfect parent" and the classes would be available to anyone who wanted them.

And she highlighted the Government's policies on income tax thresholds and the council tax freeze in England as ways to help household budgets.

Netmums founder Sally Russell said the classes would be welcomed by many. She said: "Mums and dads-to-be are used to going along to classes before a baby is born to prepare for pregnancy and birth - yet there is little provision to learn how to be a parent once their child has arrived. …