The government is offering free parenting classes to families with children under five in a bid to encourage external help with childcare.

The pilot scheme will begin in April and will start off as a two-year trial. The government hope that it will encourage families to seek assistance during the first few years of their child’s life and that it'll be as popular as antenatal classes, which offer the same kind of advice for parents-to-be.

Parenting charities, including The National Childbirth Trust, Save the Children and the Fatherhood Institute, will host sessions at the schemes, which will initially take place in London (Camden), Derbyshire (High Peak) and Middlesbrough.

The scheme will be free, with vouchers distributed to parents who will be asked to redeem them at any of the providers in the area.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather, who is backing the new scheme, told the Press Association: "Being a parent is one of the most important jobs you can do. Parents are the most important influence on a child's healthy development and future lives.

“We know from the demand for self-help books and from speaking to mums and dads that they would welcome light-touch key advice and support from time to time.

"Most parents go to antenatal classes before their child is born. We want parents to be able to seek help and advice in the earliest years of their child's life and for this to be a normal part of family life."

However, some parents feel there is a stigma attached to asking for help or attending parenting classes, which is why this scheme has employed the help of leading expert organisations with a good background of reaching out to parents of all backgrounds.

“They will attract and engage parents through a mixture of face-to-face and online classes, and in a variety of community settings including schools and children's centres," explained Teather.

"The settings for classes need to be attractive and convenient to parents and offered in a variety of locations."

A separate study claims middle class children are being held back by childcare and suffer from problems with their development, health and behavior as a result.

The study by researchers from the Queen’s University in Canada, found that childcare leads to a substantial drop-off in parents’ involvement in their child’s upbringing. This leads to a “significant decline” in the child’s learning skills, suffering more ill health and have a more aggressive nature than children who went to nursery.

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