Free £100 to make your child behave

Cameron plus babyThe government has plans to dish out 50,000 £100 vouchers to families with children under the age of five - as long as they attend lessons designed to teach their children discipline and better communication. Clearly the government has a pretty dim view of the ability of many UK families to teach their children about how to behave properly.

Conflict management voucher

Hence a £100 bribe. The move has been partly bought on by the summer riots across the country. But it begs the question whether the move is more Nanny State, telling parents how to instil right and wrong in their offspring? Or is it simply much-needed support for families: parenting doesn't come with many guide books?

The move won't be offered to all. Initially the scheme will be tested in North London, Middlesbrough and Derbyshire before being evaluated, and possibly rolled out across the country.

"I want to get rid of the stigma attached to asking for help," says Children's Minister, Sarah Teather. "Parenting classes aren't just for struggling families with complex problems. All parents should know it's ok to ask for extra support and guidance when they need it – just as most do when they attend ante-natal classes before their child is born."

Patronising or helpful?

She adds: "The overwhelming evidence, from all the experts, is that a child's development in the first five years of their life is the single biggest factor influencing their future life chances, health and educational attainment."

But the irony of the government telling people how to instil moral values in their children can't be lost on all. Successive British governments have regularly been accused of dumbing down education and taking away authority away from teachers.

The government will need to be careful exactly who to target. There will be plenty of clued-up middle class families who will quickly snap these lessons up and pocket the £100. And there will be plenty of working class and middle class families who will see such lessons as patronising, interfering and will stay well clear.

Another £5m down the drain?

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