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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 13:51 GMT
Head to head: Parenting classes
A youngster drinking
Some parents struggle to impose curfews on their children

The government is to invest millions of pounds to provide parenting classes across England.

Supporters of the initiative believe both compulsory and voluntary schemes could cut anti-social behaviour but others are concerned that some parents may resent the plans.

Here, two leading social policy experts give their differing perspectives on the issue.

LOUISE CASEY, GOVERNMENT RESPECT CO-ORDINATOR

Basically, the evidence clearly shows that if you run proper, effective parenting programmes and parenting courses, things like the Incredible Years which has been pioneered by Dr Stephen Scott from King's College Hospital, that we know they work incredibly well.

They help parents feel more confident about dealing with the behaviour of their children.

Parents are taught how to nurture good behaviour but actually, when necessary, make sure they can actually manage poor behaviour in their kids.

Evidence shows that going on parenting courses, being forced to do so, is equally as effective as voluntary

I think we have got to do everything to make sure we are tackling not just anti-social behaviour today, but preventing the next generation of people growing up with signs of anti-social behaviour in the future.

At the moment, you can get a parenting order actioned, people do get parenting orders say when children are truanting as well as when they are caught up in the youth offending system.

But I am not sure that we need to say this is all about compulsion.

I am very comfortable - as is every member of the public, the Mori poll shows - that if you need to force people on to parenting courses to get help then you should.

Part of preventing those problems arising in the first place is making sure that parents get the right help they need to make sure their kids are not wandering around the streets at eight, nine o'clock at night when they are eight, nine years of age.

Evidence, not opinion from anybody, but evidence shows that going on parenting courses, being forced to do so, is equally as effective as voluntary.

JILL KIRBY, CHAIR OF THE FAMILY POLICY GROUP AT THE CENTRE FOR POLICY STUDIES

This government is developing programs which interfere more and more with family life.

Where parenting classes are likely to be helpful they are being provided by the voluntary sector.

I am really concerned that instead of putting in place the right financial and benefit structures to encourage families, the government is instead using coercion and instruction and stepping into family life.

Instead of asking parents to be responsible, it is telling them how to behave. That is not in my view the best way to make families more responsible about their own decision-making.

The government should recognise that its failure to improve educational outcomes in our poorest communities is at the heart of these problems

Parents may no longer feel they have the confidence to raise their children using common sense.

The government should decide what is the responsibility of the family and what is the responsibility of government. The line is too far on one side, towards state interference.

Anti-social behaviour should be tackled through enforcement in the streets, where criminal offences are being committed and through a swifter and more efficient justice system.

In the long term, we must ensure that we do not have a welfare state that encourages irresponsible parenting, discourages fathers from becoming involved in family life and which, through its system of benefits, actively penalises two-parent families.

The government should also recognise that its failure to improve educational outcomes in our poorest communities is at the heart of many of these problems.

Instead of tackling the real issues of welfare reform, child support enforcement and bad schools, ministers prefer to blame parents and tell them how to raise their children.



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