Prime minister launches Can Parent initiative to offer guidance and says he will push for childcare tax breaks
Parenting classes should be taken as seriously as driving lessons, David Cameron will declare as he announces measures to help the “nation-builders” raising Britain’s next generation.
The prime minister, whose Can Parent initiative is allowing parents to fund classes through £100 vouchers handed out at Boots in some areas, said his plans represented the “sensible state” rather than the nanny state. The parenting classes in 10 two-hour sessions will offer advice on nutrition, behaviour and development.
Cameron made it clear on Thursday that he would like to introduce tax breaks for childcare. He reportedly told a Manchester businesswoman after making a speech in the city that he was “hugely attracted to the idea of making childcare tax allowable”.
The prime minister will launch a strong defence of parenting classes. “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,” he will say.
Cameron, whose late son Ivan was severely paralysed, admits he would have appreciated guidance: “I would have loved more guidance when my children were babies. We’ve all been there when it’s the middle of the night, your child won’t stop crying and you don’t know what to do
“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.
“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. That’s why supporting families is right at the top of our agenda – and I’m going to make sure it stays that way.”
Parenting classes will take place as pilot schemes, backed by a new website, in Middlesbrough, Camden in north London and in High Peak, Derbyshire. A relationship support service will be piloted in York, Leeds, north Essex and in some London boroughs from July for all expectant parents and those with children up to the age of two.
The idea, drawn up by the prime minister’s departing policy guru Steve Hilton, is one response to the riots of last summer.
Frank Field, Labour’s former welfare minister, previously proposed parenting classes in a report for Cameron in December 2010. Field said they should be routinely offered to new parents. They “should be seen as something normal to do, rather than remedial, or something only for low income families”.
Field wrote: “Poor parenting exists across the income distribution, but tends to have less of an impact on better-off children where other factors provide greater protection against poor outcomes.”
He said that children’s centres and home visitors should encourage parents to attend classes “as a matter of course”. Health visitors should offer “to sign them up as a matter of routine, initially targeting this on those most likely to benefit”.