`Help bad parents,' says Straw

Labour reveal steps that could keep children off the streets
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More education in parenting and a national telephone information service for parents in difficulty would be developed under a Labour government, Jack Straw, the shadow home secretary, said yesterday.

Mr Straw and Janet Anderson, shadow minister for women, said in a discussion document that unless the subject of parenting was tackled, delinquency and crime would grow. "If we are not prepared to do this then we are doomed to spend more on police, security, insurance, courts and prisons," the MPs say in the paper, which cites studies showing the link between defective early childcare and delinquency.

Mr Straw said it was "no good just lecturing parents for being lousy parents. We have also got to have intervention as well".

The document outlines the scale and difficulty of the task, saying that while the "roots of offending" lie in parental attitudes, defining parental responsibility is almost impossible. It notes that in government Labour would encourage the expansion of locally developed parenting programmes..

Labour would ask the proposed Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority to examine how parenting lessons in schools could be organised and consider how resources could be better used to develop a telephone information service and guidance material on parenting and sources of help but makes no promises about exta money. A new "parental responsibility order" should be available to the courts where it is clear that parental attitudes and behaviour are a key factor in a child's offending. Parents would then have to attend sessions. Mr Straw later urged people not to castigate single parents, saying that he had been one of five children brought up by a single mother in Essex. He said: "The worst thing that happened to any of us was that I became an MP."

New labour, new nanny, page 18