David Cameron said free parenting classes are not a “nanny state” policy as he defended a raft of new initiatives targeting families on Friday.
The Prime Minister said it was ludicrous that people had to train before they were allowed to drive a car, but could bring up a baby with no practice at all.
He spoke as vouchers for £100-worth of parenting classes went on offer to parents of children aged up to five in three trial areas around the UK: Middlesbrough, Camden in north London, and High Peak, Derbyshire.
The NHS is also launching a new video and text advice service for parents, while subsidised relationship sessions will be piloted from July.
The initiatives were launched nine months after riots swept across England last summer. Ministers blamed the violence on a breakdown of family discipline.
Cameron called parents “nation-builders”, saying: “It’s through love and sheer hard work that we raise the next generation with the right values.” Parenting and families were “big gritty issues”, he said.
He said the Government was not acting as a nanny state, but as “the sensible state”.
“It’s ludicrous that we should expect people to train for hours to drive a car or use a computer, but when it comes to looking after a baby we tell people to just get on with it.”
The Prime Minister said he would have loved more advice when his own children were babies, adding:”We’ve all been there when it’s the middle of the night, your child won’t stop crying and you don’t know what to do.”
The vouchers are available from high street chemist Boots and from health professionals.
If the scheme, known as Can Parent, proves successful it could be extended throughout England.
The NHS’s new text and email service will target those expecting a baby or who are in the first month of parenthood.
The service is designed to provide “regular, relevant and tailored” advice to new parents. It will include videos of midwives demonstrating how to bathe a baby, as well as advice from other parents.
Subsidised relationship support sessions will also be piloted from July for all expectant parents and those with children up to the age of two.
The project will be tested in York, Leeds, North Essex, the City of London and the London boroughs of Hackney, Islington and Westminster, with up to £1 million made available for the trial up to March 2014.