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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 22:51 GMT
'Super-nannies' to help parents
Youth, face pixellated
UK youths are the worst behaved in Europe, research suggests

"Super-nannies" are to be brought in to try to improve parenting in 77 areas of England with high levels of anti-social behaviour, PM Tony Blair has said.

Mr Blair met people who had been on parenting courses and experts at No 10 to discuss the 4m scheme.

A "helping hand" was needed to make parenting easier, he told them.

But crime reduction charity Nacro said parenting courses should not be compulsory and that "support rather than a punitive approach" was needed.

The child psychologists will be funded by the prime minister's Respect Task Force to work in deprived areas.

They will advise new parents - of children of all ages - and intervene when children get into trouble.

A little help at a particularly difficult time for parents can be hugely effective
Clare Tickell
Children's charity NCH

"I sit in this chair as prime minister taking some very difficult and challenging decisions but, frankly, in our personal lives there's nothing more difficult than being a parent and all of us have been through it," Mr Blair said in Tuesday's round-table discussion.

"Particularly in today's world - where kids are subject to pressures from a very early age - what people need is a helping hand."

In an article in Tuesday's Sun newspaper, Mr Blair had rejected accusations a "nanny state" was interfering with families.

"No-one's talking about interfering with normal family life," he told the paper.

"But life isn't normal when you've got 12-year-olds out every night, drinking and creating a nuisance on the street, with their parents not knowing or even caring."

He added: "In these circumstances, a bit of nannying, with sticks and carrots, is what the local community needs, let alone the child."

Bad behaviour

A survey for the Institute for Public Policy Research has previously suggested that the UK's youths are the worst behaved in Europe.

On every indicator of bad behaviour - drugs, drink, violence, promiscuity - the UK was at or near the top of the league, according to the survey earlier this month.

Another piece of research by the organisation found British adults were becoming fearful of young people.

"Hoodies" on the street at night
A poll suggests most people blame parents for bad behaviour

Government Respect co-ordinator Louise Casey said evidence showed that parenting courses worked "incredibly well" in helping parents feel much more confident about dealing with the behaviour of their children.

"We've got to do everything we can to make sure we're tackling both anti-social behaviour of today but preventing a new generation growing up with signs of anti-social behaviour in the future," she told BBC News.

The Home Office is also to provide more money for existing parenting courses.

Parents can volunteer for the courses, with others forced to participate when their children break the law or refuse to attend school.

'Wits' end'

Clare Tickell, chief executive of children's charity NCH, said the latest initiative was "good news" but that more could be done.

"Some of the parents we work with haven't had fantastic experiences with their own parents, and sometimes that goes back three, four, five, sometimes even six generations," she said.

"So actually they need some really basic skills and confidence and help to work out how to do it properly.

"A little help at a particularly difficult time for parents can be hugely effective."

It's very difficult the older the children get to actually rein them back in
Single mother Natalie
But Paul Cavadino, chief executive of crime reduction charity Nacro, said compulsory parenting courses were not the right way forward.

"Many parents are at their wits' end to know how to control their children's behaviour," he said.

"They need support rather than a punitive approach."

Shadow home secretary David Davis said the scheme was merely "another headline-grabbing initiative".

I firmly believe in discipline for children
Colin Crook, Paisley

The public would "be aware that Labour's flagship anti-social behaviour policy - the Asbo - has a breach rate of over 50% according to latest indications", he added.

Liberal Democrat family spokeswoman Annette Brooke welcomed support for struggling parents, but said 77 experts would not be enough and that help should be available in all neighbourhoods.

A Mori poll for the Home Office suggests 53% of people think poor parenting is the main cause of bad behaviour and 85% blame parents for allowing children to become out of control.

Can super-nannies make a difference?
Not sure
5786 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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