NHS to offer parents classes on child rearing


BRITISH PARENTS are to be offered classes in how to raise their children, including help with nappy-changing, breast-feeding and the best foods to offer.

In a two-pronged approach, the National Health Service (NHS) will offer online guidance, while parents will get £100 vouchers to attend classes now being trialled in pilot schemes.

Saying he wished he had had more help as a young parent, prime minister David Cameron said: “We’re taught to drive a car. We’re taught all sorts of things at school. I think it makes perfect sense.” The launch of the £3.4 million NHS scheme – dubbed “Digital Baby” – has provoked predictable complaints about “the nanny state”, while Labour said some of Mr Cameron’s tax changes have hurt families.

In the trials in Middlesbrough, High Peak in Derbyshire and Camden in north London, people caring for under-fives can sign up for eight-week long classes run in the evenings or at weekends.

From July it will be expanded to cover York, Leeds, north Essex, Hackney, the City of London, and Islington and Westminster in London. Promoting the classes, the department of health said it hoped they would “reduce the stigma of asking for information, advice and help with parenting”.

Pointing to surveys that report 85 per cent of parents wanted practical help, ministers accept that a wealth of information exists but say its volume is too much for most.

The NHS Information Service for Parents will offer guidance on safe foods to eat during pregnancy and how to keep homes safe for babies and children.

Videos can be downloaded on to PCs, tablets or smart-phones to help parents learn relaxation techniques for children, while targeted information will be sent as the baby grows. Under the section “Tots’ bots”, parents can read about the best types of nappies to choose, nappy-changing and the accessories needed.

Speaking on ITV’s Daybreak’, Mr Cameron said: “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.”

Parenting classes already exist in Britain, though the attendance is made up of parents ordered there by the courts because of children who have broken the law.

“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,” said Mr Cameron.

“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,” he went on.

Doubtful about the moves, Jill Kirby of the Centre for Policy Studies was worried people would come to believe “that parenting is something the state teaches you to do”.

Instead of offering the scheme to all, she said, it should be targeted on those where help “is desperately needed”, rather than on the majority of parents “who frankly don’t need” it.