Key staff to be sent to parenting academy

Professionals working with parents to improve their parenting skills and children’s behaviour will receive specialist training under proposals to establish a National Parenting Academy.

The academy forms part of the government’s Respect Action Plan, published this week to mark the latest step in the official fight against antisocial behaviour.

Education secretary Ruth Kelly said the academy would “equip a new generation of workers with advanced skills, particularly to help families where children are at risk of getting involved in antisocial behaviour”. Potential students include social workers, clinical psychologists, community safety officers and youth justice workers.

New national occupational standards will also be introduced in relation to all members of the children’s workforce working with parents to ensure a minimum level of relevant training and skill.

Elsewhere in the action plan, the government has pledged to take forward many of the proposals around youth services and school discipline set out in the youth green paper and education white paper respectively.

These include launching the first national youth voluntary service, piloting youth opportunity cards in a number of areas, introducing new measures to ensure parents take responsibility for their child’s behaviour in the classroom, and improving education provision for excluded pupils.

As expected, the action plan also promises legislation on increasing both the circumstances in which parenting orders can be issued and the number of agencies entitled to apply for them.

In addition, a network of intensive family support schemes will be launched this year targeting problem households where they are the cause of antisocial behaviour. This work will be kick-started with £28m of new funding, and comes on top of the £52m promised for a national parenting programme.

“Our action plan is a balance of support and sanctions, providing greater help to families to prevent problem behaviour but strong sanctions when they cross the line,” Kelly said. “Where parents are unwilling or unable to fulfil their responsibilities we must ensure that they are challenged and supported to do so. That has to be right given the link to antisocial behaviour and the impact that has on our communities.”

Initial reactions from children’s campaigners were cautious, with the charity 4Children urging the government to focus on “preventive rather than punitive, short term measures” and the Children’s Society demanding that high quality services for all families be made the top priority.
Highlighting the negative impact on young people of existing policies such as antisocial behaviour orders, dispersal powers and curfews, Children’s Society chief executive Bob Reitemeier added: “If the government wants to get more respect from young people, it also needs to show greater respect for them and their rights.”

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