CANparent voucher scheme: Mythbusters Q & A!

This ‘Mythbusters Q & A’ challenges misconceptions about the CANparent voucher scheme

This week heralded the launch of the CANparent voucher scheme which offers over 50,000 parents in Camden, Middlesbrough and High Peak in Derbyshire a voucher worth £100 to spend on parenting classes.  The Race Equality Foundation is offering three specially adapted versions of their long-running Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities parenting programme as part of the scheme.

We know that not everyone is comfortable with the idea of the government getting involved in parenting- and that’s why we’ve put together this ‘Mythbusters Q & A’!

But I don’t want the government interfering in my life! Who are they to tell me how to look after my kids?

The Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities (SFSC) programme is not being run by the government- it is being delivered by facilitators who have had intensive training from parenting organisations with years of experience in the sector.  And SFSC is NOT about telling parents what they should and shouldn’t do.  The programme is designed to be universal and experiential- to help parents think about why they parent in the way they do; how the influences of their parents, culture and faith play a role; and when and why the approach they take does and doesn’t work.  Most importantly, the programme seeks to connect parents with the support services around them, and to recognise the role that they can play in their community.

We know that parenting cannot be learnt from a handbook- that’s why the government can’t just issue a manual or a set of instructions.  But SFSC can help parents- whether with tips on tackling particular problems; in controlling anger and implementing consistent discipline; or by signposting parents to resources and support services in their area. And feedback from parents proves it- over a number of years parents have reported that they not only think the programme is of value to ALL parents, but that it should be offered as early as possible.

But only rich white middle class mums will take part- and those who actually need the programme will stay home

SFSC is a long standing programme which is specifically designed to be inclusive to parents of all backgrounds.  Since the programme started over 10 years ago we have delivered- and helped- parents from all walks of life:

  • around 61 per cent of participants are from families with annual household incomes £10,000 or less;
  • around 63 per cent of participants are from black and minority ethnic communities;
  • around 60 per cent of programmes have at least one father participating.

We have also worked extensively with local council referral services, delivering SFSC to a number of different parent groups including parents in prison, parents with substance abuse problems, parents with learning disabilities, and parents of children with learning disabilities amongst many others!

We hope that as a universal programme #CANparent will actually increase the diversity of the parents taking part- by making the scheme open to everyone, we not only remove the barrier of cost, but also hopefully any stigma associated with taking part in a parenting programme.  Being a parent does not come with an instruction manual, and we believe that regardless of their age, race or socio-economic status, no one should feel ashamed of asking for help and support to raise happy children!

But isn’t it just a waste of money?

Evidence shows that preventative parenting programmes SAVE the government money in the long-run.  It doesn’t just take a shock incident like the August riots for us to believe that this is true (estimated to have cost £300m!)- a report from the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health [not working] (2009) suggests that the total cost of crime attributable to people who had conduct problems in childhood is estimated at about £60 billion a year in England and Wales.

Furthermore, we have extensive feedback from parents who have completed the programme, who feel that it has helped them to overcome problems in their families, and form warm relationships with their children.  And you don’t need to be a specialist on social return on investment to see the benefits of this!

But most parents don’t have time for this- it’ll either be stay-at-home yummy mummies or people will just drop out.

We also recognise that not all parents will be able to commit 3 hours a week to a 13 week parenting programme.  That’s why we have developed three new flexible SFSC course models for the CANparent scheme

  • Online course: Six half hour individual online learning sessions and an online group session each week
  • Face-to-face course: Three two hour group workshops
  • Blended course: Start with a group session, take four online sessions and then finish with another group session.

We will also be delivering the programme at weekends and during the evenings so that everyone can take part.

How can I find out more?

If you would like to find out more about the CANparent scheme or about Strengthening Families Strengthening Communities, please: