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Busy parents are being offered support through vouchers for parenting classes in a pilot scheme which could spread nationwide.
The Government-backed CANparent scheme has been operating in Camden, Middlesborough and the High Peak area of Derbyshire since May.
The pilot runs for a year and is for all parents of children who are five and under. Both mothers and fathers or an authorised carer are entitled to a voucher worth £100 which they can use for parenting classes. The vouchers are available from Boots, GP surgeries, libraries and early years settings.
Sue Robb, Head of Early Years at the 4Children Charity which supports the scheme, says Boots is working to make the vouchers more visible in its stores. The scheme is ramping up publicity after the summer holidays in a bid to let parents in the areas know about their entitlement.
The vouchers are parenting classes from 23 different providers who have achieved the CANparent kite mark. They are listed on the CANparent so parents can see what is on offer in their area. Some are completely online courses, others are a mix of online and face to face and still others are purely face to face. Some include the facility for parents to send questions online. They cover issues such as child behaviour, establishing routines and supporting children with early language.
Robb says the vouchers are available to all parents in order to combat any stigma around parenting classes. “It’s the same as ante-natal classes which all mums to be have access to. Parenting is not easy,” says Robb. “Children don’t come with a little manual. Research shows parents would have welcomed support in the early days.”
Robb says the issues that parents struggle with most are establishing routines and toddler tantrums.
She adds that because parents are so busy now they can find it hard to interact as much with their children. “We live in a very technological world and you do see parents on their mobile phone pushing pushchairs and not perhaps interacting with them as much,” says Robb. “It’s understandable that parents get distracted. That’s life at the moment. We have to support them.”
She says the classes are not about making parents feel guilty, but about helping them, for instance, with making the most of the time they have to engage with their children. Even shopping trips to the supermarket can become valuable fun time to engage with children, she says.
The trial will be evaluated after Easter. Because of the current economic situation it is unlikely, Robb concedes, that a roll-out around the country will be fully funded by Government. However, all options are being investigated, including whether parents might contribute to the scheme or whether larger employers might fund parenting classes in the lunch hour for staff.