Labour brands Government parenting classes ‘a failure’

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Labour has accused the Government of wasting thousands of pounds on parenting classes after figures revealed that just 4 per cent of eligible parents in the pilot areas took part.

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Figures show that 2,000 parents took part in the CANparent pilots out of a total of 55,200 parents.

The scheme, launched by David Cameron in March 2012, offered £100 vouchers for parenting classes to all parents and carers of under-fives in Middlesbrough, Camden and High Peak.

The take-up figures and costs were revealed in response to parliamentary questions put by Lucy Powell, shadow minister for childcare and children, to education secretary Michael Gove.

A breakdown by provider shows 1,832 women and 168 men have taken part in the scheme up to February this year at a cost of more than £2.1m. Labour has calculated that the cost per parent was £1,088. Of those that took part just eight per cent (168) were fathers.

The vouchers were available at selected Boots stores, early years settings, children’s centres, midwives and health visitors.

Responsibility for the second phase of the scheme passed from the Department for Education to the Department of Health on 1 April.

Lucy Powell said, ‘David Cameron says he supports families — but the reality is this pilot has been an embarrassing failure.

‘He promised to protect Sure Start but there are 578 fewer children’s centres serving families. He promised to protect families but he will have taken away up to £15 billion in support for children by 2015.

‘Parenting classes are a valued early intervention service but parents struggling under a cost-of-living crisis to balance work and family life are finding it harder and harder to access the help they need under this Tory-led Government.’

Last year, Montessori St Nicholas, which was taking part in the Camden trial, withdrew from running the classes a year early, frustrated by bureaucracy and low take-up.

A Government spokesperson said, ‘CANparent offers a wide range of high quality, universal parenting classes and 99 per cent of those who completed their course said they would recommend classes to others.

‘We are helping parents access the vital help and advice they need in the early years of their child's life, and will continue to work closely with the providers across all trial areas.’