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Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 23:47 GMT 00:47 UK


Help at hand for struggling parents

The line offers practical advice and emotional support

The government has launched a national telephone helpline to offer advice and emotional support to parents.

The BBC's Kim Catcheside: Most parents would admit to having problems at some time
The free service is aimed at helping anyone in a parenting role on issues such as divorce, custody and relationships with children.

Parentline, which will also act as a gateway to other family services, is staffed by 200 trained volunteers and is open from 8am to 10pm every day.

Although it has existed since 1993, until now the service has been obtainable only on a paid-for number and via local centres.

Dorit Braun of Parentline: The vast majority want someone to listen to them
Funded by a government grant of £1m spread over the next three years, the expanded Parentline freephone is expected to help up to 100,000 parents each year.

The helpline is part of a range of government measures aimed at supporting the family, to be announced by Home Secretary Jack Straw on Tuesday.

£7m for 30 charities

The package follows the publication of a government consultation paper, entitled Supporting Families, in November last year.

That drew together family policies that have already been announced by the government, such as the Sure Start scheme for children from deprived backgrounds, and paves the way for future policy announcements.

Another measure to be announced on Tuesday includes a £7m grant, to be divided over three years between 30 voluntary organisations that help the family.

The Home Office has previously said parenting support "should be viewed in the same way as ante-natal classes - a natural part of preparing for parenthood".

It has also tried to define "the family" broadly, saying that although it supports marriage, "many couples who choose not to marry provide a loving and stable environment for their children".

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