Free parenting classes are not a “nanny state” policy, David Cameron insisted as he unveiled a number of initiatives aimed at helping families.
The prime minister said it was ludicrous that people had to train before they were allowed to drive a car but could bring up a baby with no practice at all.
Vouchers for £100-worth of parenting classes are now on offer from high street chemist Boots and health professionals to parents of children aged up to five in three trial areas.
There will also be a new targeted NHS email and text service aimed at those expecting a baby or in the first month of parenthood.
It is designed to provide “regular, relevant and tailored” advice such as videos of midwives demonstrating bathing and other techniques, plus advice from other parents.
Initially the parenting classes will be piloted in Middlesbrough, Camden in north London and High Peak, Derbyshire - but they could be extended throughout England and Wales if successful.
Courts can already impose such classes on parents of unruly children, but ministers hope that the involvement of Boots will persuade families to see them as just as normal as ante-natal classes.