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'Supernannies' to tackle antisocial children
Matt Weaver 21st November 2006
A team of "supernannies" is to be sent to some of Britain's most deprived areas to help parents control antisocial children, Tony Blair revealed today.
The parenting experts will be sent to 77 areas with high levels of unruly behaviour, teenage pregnancies and truancy from school.
The £4m scheme will also force the parents of disruptive children to attend parenting courses.
Writing in the Sun newspaper, the prime minister claimed the initiative would tackle the root causes of crime and disorder.
He said the experts would "be able to step in - either through one-to-one support or in group sessions - to offer a helping hand to parents who are beginning to struggle with their children before the problems get out of hand".
Mr Blair denied the scheme would involve "interfering with normal family life", adding: "Life isn't normal if you've got 12-year-olds out every night, drinking and creating nuisance on the street with their parents not knowing or even caring."
The plans coincide with a government-commissioned Mori poll revealing that 85% of people think bad parenting is responsible for bad behaviour.
Commenting on the findings, the prime minister said: "This should be no surprise given the huge popularity of television programmes in which experts help parents with their problem kids."
More details of the "supernanny" scheme will be revealed by the home secretary, John Reid, later today.
However, Paul Cavadino, the chief executive of the crime reduction charity Nacro, said blaming parents was "unproductive".
"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."
Mr Cavadino said parents should not be forced to attend courses, adding: "Parenting courses have a proven track record in helping parents to exercise more effective control over their children's behaviour.
"However, a voluntary approach is usually more likely to engage parents than compulsion, which can run the risk of breeding resentment."
He pointed out that youth courts were already able to order parents to attend parenting courses when their children were convicted of criminal offences.
"We should be cautious about extending compulsory powers to other types of antisocial behaviour without the procedural safeguards of a youth court hearing," he said.
The government's respect coordinator, Louise Casey, insisted evidence showed compulsory courses were "equally effective as voluntary".
"Almost nine times out of 10, those parents do not have to be forced to do it - they are actually taking help when they get the right wake-up call," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"I am very comfortable - as is every member of the public, the Mori poll shows - that if you need to force people on to parenting courses to get help, then you should."
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