A team of 77 "supernannies" will be hired to help improve the behaviour of some of the country's most unruly youngsters. They will be drafted in by the Government to help parents impose discipline on children who are out of control.
The move, which was dismissed by the opposition parties as a gimmick, is aimed at curbing antisocial behaviour and preventing young troublemakers from becoming adult criminals.
It follows a study which suggested that British teenagers were the worst-behaved in Europe, with high levels of violence, promiscuity, binge-drinking and drug addiction.
The parenting experts will advise parents on how to calm down aggressive children and to tackle drinking and drug-taking, as well as getting youngsters to school and making them go to bed at a reasonable time.
Mothers and fathers who refuse to co-operate with the advisers could be forced by court orders to attend parenting classes.
The "supernannies" will be recruited, at a cost of £4m, in 77 areas with serious problems with antisocial behaviour, although the scheme could eventually be extended nationwide. They will either visit parents at home or run classes in community centres.
Ministers believe that the popularity of television parenting programmes demonstrates that there is a demand for such advice and point to research showing most people believe poor parenting is a key cause of antisocial behaviour.
John Reid, the Home Secretary, dismissed suggestions that the initiative amounted to meddling in parents' everyday lives.
He said: "Many parents still struggle and where they are failing, the Government has a duty to the child to offer help.
"This help should be offered on a voluntary basis first. But where people really need it and their children are at risk, we should not shy away from using court orders."
He said that failing to act could eventually cost society huge sums in court costs and social care fees.
But Nacro, the crime reduction charity, warned against simply blaming parents and creating resentment through forcing them to attend classes.
The charity's chief executive, Paul Cavadino, said: "Many parents are at their wits' end to know how to control their children's behaviour. These parents often find life a constant struggle with problems of debt, rent arrears, sickness, unemployment and mental illness. They need support rather than a punitive approach."
David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said yesterday: "We have seen countless antisocial behaviour initiatives announced before, only to fail to make it beyond the headline."
Annette Brooke, the Liberal Democrats' spokeswoman on the family, said: "Providing just 77 'supernannies' for the whole country will not be enough to reach all families with problems and risks sending out the wrong signals.
"By providing support for only the most deprived neighbourhoods, we risk stigmatising the least well-off as well as missing out many families in other areas who may need outside help."Reuse content