Couples whose relationships deteriorate with the difficulties of becoming new parents are to be offered subsidised counselling as part of a package of measures to support families announced yesterday.
Under the plans, parents who find it difficult to adjust to the stress, sleep deprivation and the loss of a regular sex life caused by the arrival of babies will be able to apply for support from professional marriage guidance councillors.
The scheme is to be trialled in four areas of the country this summer and could be rolled out nationwide if it is successful. It will be managed and promoted by the National Childbirth Trust who said the intention was to make it just as normal to access relationship support in the first few years of a child's life as it is to go to an antenatal class.
At the same time the NHS will also launch a new information service for parents. Those who sign up will be sent emails with links to specially commissioned videos giving practical advice on child-raising.
The initiatives – alongside plans to trial free parenting classes first announced in March – are part of David Cameron's attempts to strengthen families and prevent break-ups and divorce.
However, critics point out that the projects will only be available in limited parts of the country and will prove prohibitively expensive to roll-out nationwide at a time of huge pressure on public-sector finances.
The cost of the parenting course vouchers alone is £5m for just four areas of the country. But Mr Cameron insisted it showed the Government was thinking for the longer term.
John Loughton, head of public policy at counselling charity Relate, said: "Following the birth of a child... issues like coping with tiredness and new parental responsibilities can leave a couple vulnerable to tension and conflict. Couples manage best when they work as a team and Relate... can offer the strategies, advice and confidence couples need."