Parenting orders scheme set to be extended to first-time offenders

The parents of first-time young offenders could be subjected to
parenting orders under an extension of the scheme announced by the
government last week.

Speaking at a seminar on parenting orders, Home Office minister
Hilary Benn said the government wanted more parenting orders to be
issued when a first-time offender was referred to a youth offending
panel and more issued at the same time as antisocial behaviour

He told the seminar, organised by the National Family and Parenting
Institute and the Youth Justice Board, that a parenting order was
not intended to be a punishment, but “a positive development for
the concept of parental responsibility”.

Research findings launched at the seminar found that most parents
on youth offending teams’ parenting programmes reported positive
changes in parenting skills, including better communication with
their child, better supervision and monitoring of young people’s
activities, and less conflict with their teenagers.

Parents also said their relationship with their child had improved
and there were more opportunities to express praise and approval of
their child and to influence their behaviour. Despite initial
hostility and apprehension about being made to attend the
programme, nine out of 10 parents said they would recommend it to
other parents who were in the same situation.

The study, by the children and families charity the Policy Research
Bureau, found that 96 per cent of parents who attended the services
were white British, four out of five were mothers, while half were
lone parents.

In response, Benn said the government would be asking YOTs to
develop programmes that were appropriate to fathers and parents
from ethnic minorities.

Parents reported very high levels of need including problems with
debt and housing, health and personal relationships.

The young people whose behaviour had led to the parenting order
being issued also had very high needs. Three-quarters had
behavioural and emotional difficulties that would probably be rated
as abnormal by a clinician.

Each young person had an average of 4.4 recorded offences in the
year before their parents took part in the parenting programme.

A total of 2,194 parenting orders were imposed in the year April
2001 to 2002, three-quarters of them as a result of offences
committed by young people.

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