MPs call for national parenting support programme

Adam Offord and Derren Hayes
Tuesday, March 24, 2015

There should be national co-ordination of parenting support with local authorities playing a more active role in evaluating provision in their area, a parliamentary inquiry has concluded.

The inquiry into parenting and social mobility recommends the creation of a universal parenting programme that is available to all parents across the UK and which is delivered on the ground by public, private and voluntary sector organisations sharing resources and expertise.

The inquiry's report, published today and written by the Family and Childcare Trust, claims that while parenting programmes that target specific problems and disadvantaged groups are well evidenced, they "will not of themselves increase national parenting capability". It recommends that the government "accommodates" existing trials of parenting support campaigns before rolling out a UK-wide scheme.

In addition, the report calls for a new statutory duty to be placed on local authorities to carry out a strategic needs evaluation for family support services in their area. It says such data should be easily collected and not place an "undue burden" on authorities.

According to the inquiry, the new duty is needed because only a small number of authorities currently regularly monitor and evaluate parenting support services in their area.

The report states: "Only by having this information can effective and tailored parenting support campaigns be successfully devised. To move forward, it would be a positive development if all authorities were required to conduct such an evaluation and report to central government. This information would be intensely helpful in the creating of new parenting support campaigns that meet the needs of distinct areas."

Other recommendations include the creation of a cabinet-level minister for families working across government departments; for government to provide councils with best-practice guidance on developing parenting support programmes; and for early years services to actively engage fathers and promote the participation of men in the early years workforce.

Baroness Claire Tyler, chair of the inquiry, said: “We want to see any incoming government encourage early years services to actively engage fathers by promoting activities that are accessible to them, and by supporting greater participation of men in the early years’ workforce.

“Effective parenting has a bigger influence on a child’s life than income, class or education, and for too long fathers have been woefully neglected by local and national government in the narrative about children’s early development. This needs to change.”

The report also recommends that the "family test", which promotes and supports strong family bonds be built upon, because strong bonds are at the base of good parenting.

It calls for the strengthening of the test, to ensure the government supports all families, with an effective family test process set out at key periods such as spending reviews and the annual Budget.

It also suggests that the government design, fund and promote a UK-wide “fathers and children” reading campaign that is implemented by councils.

The cross party inquiry, which held evidence sessions and took written evidence, was carried out by the all-party parliamentary group on parents and families, and the all-party parliamentary group on social mobility.

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