David Cameron denies parenting classes 'nanny state'


David Cameron: ''Parents want help''

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Describing vouchers for parenting classes in England as a "nanny state" policy is "nonsense", David Cameron has said.

In three trial areas, those with children aged up to five can get a £100 voucher towards parenting classes.

The PM has also announced a new NHS online information service for parents of very young children.

Labour said it had an "open mind" but schemes needed to be "value for money" and reach a "wide range of parents".

Defending the policy, David Cameron said: "I think this whole debate about nanny state is nonsense.

"Parents want help. It is in our interest as a society to help people bring up their children.

"We're taught to drive a car. We're taught all sorts of things at school. I think it makes perfect sense to help people with parenting."

He denied that a focus on parenting and childcare was a diversion from "big issues" like the economy.

The vouchers are now available from health professionals and on the high street through the chemist Boots.

Start Quote

Britain's families need Supernanny, not the nanny state”

End Quote David Cameron in 2006

The scheme, known as Can Parent, was launched in October 2011. It is being piloted in Middlesbrough, Camden in London and High Peak in Derbyshire.

The government hopes to encourage demand for these kind of classes and "reduce the stigma of asking for information, advice and help with parenting."

In addition, the government is launching a new NHS online service for parents covering areas such as breastfeeding, nappy changing and post natal depression.

Expectant parents or those with a baby under a month old will be able to sign up for text and email alerts providing them with "regular, relevant and tailored" advice including short information films and advice from other parents.

From July, subsidised relationship support services will be available for new parents and those expecting in several trial areas: York, Leeds, North Essex, Hackney, the City of London, Islington and Westminster. The scheme will not be extended to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, if successful.

Mr Cameron said he would have liked parenting lessons himself.

"I've got three, and the youngest is not yet two, and I still sometimes think I would love to have a bit more information about how to get them to do the things I need them to do sometimes," he told ITV1's Daybreak.

However, in 2006 in a speech to the National Family and Parenting Institute, Mr Cameron suggested parents found TV programmes like Supernanny more useful than parenting classes.

"In recent years, there's been an explosion of information about bringing up children: TV programmes like Wifeswap and Supernanny, books and magazines, and online resources," said Mr Cameron.

"These can be more useful than formal options like parenting classes, to which there is often a stigma attached.

"So we should encourage the growth of modern forms of parenting advice.

"Britain's families need Supernanny, not the nanny state."

Shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg said he would keep an "open mind" on parenting classes but said the government "has hit families with children hard" with cuts to tax credits and Sure Start centres.

He said: "Most importantly, any new scheme must be able to reach a wide range of parents from different backgrounds and provide real value for money."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Don't really see how any critisim can be directed at this idea or DC. It's a sensible idea. If you feel you would like help with parenting you should be able to get it. I would have thought this was available to all parents already!

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Go to anywhere there are children and you can see many bad examples of parenting , in fact so many you dont even acknowledge them anymore. The one that annoys me the most are parents who allow their children to become fat through diet and no exercise or spoil their kids . I dont think parenting classes a good idea , i think them a necessity . Just dont make them PC and soft .

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Problem is society has lost it's values, working class values in the 30's were very different to what they are now. Families are disconnected by technology, yes people interact and have lots of friends, but the art of parenting has gone. And to be fair you just can't say the poor are bad parents, I know plenty of highly educated middle class parents who are pathetic and lazy towards children

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Sadly, the welfare system in this country encourages exactly the wrong people to breed. Something needs to be done to improve the chances of children born to these people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Yet another notion of the 'nanny state'!

    I have a young daughter and constantly get patronising letters home from school about how care for my daughter in every aspect of her wellbeing, something which I am more than capable of doing as a parent. The state has no right to interfere in the private sphere of family life. When these politicians have their own house in order then come and see me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Seems like a good idea. I've seen some awful examples of parenting recently. Perhaps they should offer classes before people have a child, because so many people seem to have children without thinking about it and spend a lot of time resenting them. Look how many children are in care or abused by their parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Unfortunately, the people that need them are the people who are least likely to attend them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    The people who really need it are the very ones who won't apply - and this is not a class issue, as plenty of middle-class parents use TV & games as ways to occupy their offspring, or let them roam wild with scant regard for their safety or that of others

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    What next? Classes to teach people how to breathe and walk at the same time.I despair, are the public now so dumb they need this spoonfeeding?
    I guess Cameron thinks so.
    I'm sure this has nothing to do with parents knowingly ignoring their responsibilities and expecting the gov't to pick up after them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    My friend, a primary teacher in a tough area, tells horrific stories of children who watch parents take drugs, and even (ugh!) make love.
    How on earth can you get through to a mentality like that? Where would you start?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Actually, maybe a better idea would be to encourage some of these people not to have kids in the first place...

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    It's being offered as an option. There are many new parents who come from small families. They have had little contact with small children and it is once you have this child that does not respond like that doll you had that you feel the panic. Yes Yes Yes. Easy access to classes for parents at all stages of child development is fine. Hope all parents use them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    If you need classes on how to be a good parent you shouldn't be allowed to be a parent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Teach people to be parents?

    Get a life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent and capable in terms of parental responsibility. I learned a lot from ante-natal classes and from the health workers who visited. I would attend good quality, ongoing parent training. It's not Nanny State, it's part of responsible supportive society.

    Any parent who says they have nothing to learn about parenting is, in my opinion, delusional.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Funny how it's a nanny state when the state tries to help people out who may need it but not a nanny state when they hand out money to help bring children up. Fact is, there are many bad parents out there, yes we've been bringing up children for thousands of years but families have changed and people don't always have the support of extended family and the local community no longer helps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Well its not compulsory, so I am not sure about it being "nanny state".
    There are probably some people out there that could do with some help and support, nothing wrong in that.
    Perhaps we will see less children growing up entering a life of crime and wanting to be a part of society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    How about the much more straightforward solution of ceasing state funding for people to have children they didn't really want (or couldn't be bothered to avoid) purely in order for them to gain access to housing and benefit? Too simple?

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Offering free information classes isn't a particularly controlling move, not at least until they become compulsory. Followed by the content becoming a standard against which children are taken into care. This is already happening in Norway where an Indian family lost their children because Social Workers disagreed with the way that they were being looked after. A job for the next Labour government

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Actually, and i will await the hate mail after this one.
    I have watched my wife struggle over many years to provide education to children who have never been taught respect or other basic life skills by their parents. If it is not the parents fault they have not taught them because they dont know better they should welcome the opportunity and not make this a political arguement.


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