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The new leader of Camden Council made waves in her first week in office after she criticised the Prime Minister over a new parenting scheme launched in the borough.

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Cllr Sarah Hayward was upset by the government’s decision to pilot a £5million parenting scheme after it cut 22 per cent of early years funding last year.

Although the council juggled funding to reduce loss to the service by only 10 per cent, it was still forced to make £3.2million cuts, including closing two of its 17 children’s centres and reducing the number of free full-time nursery places.

Cllr Hayward said: “We think it’s disingenuous of the government to use a Camden Council-funded service to launch the parenting vouchers scheme when it chose to cut our budget.

“It stuck in our throat a little that coalition did it here when it cut so much here.”

The government’s new scheme offers families with children aged under five parenting classes worth up to £100. It is also being piloted in two other areas over the next three years.

Parents or carers access the scheme via CANparent vouchers, which are available through Boots stores or staff working in local children’s centres.

Prime Minister David Cameron launched the classes at Coram Parents’ centre in Mecklenburgh Square, Bloomsbury, on Friday, May 18.

Mary Rose Brady, head of the centre, said: “CANparent is a response to parents telling us they’d like an opportunity to pick up the basics and take them forward to parent more confidently. It isn’t a substitute for targeted intervention or long term parenting support.

“We believe the classes offer something different.”

Cllr Hayward stressed she did not have issues with parental education but more with the approach.

“I think parenting support is valuable,” she said. “It does make a difference.

“I have no problems with the organisations involved, or with the government trying a new approach. However, this type of programme was found not to work in the US. They should have spoken to the people that did it.”

She was also concerned that “local bodies were not involved” and that those who most need parenting classes will not be able to access them.

“One of my problems is how we get to the people who really need it,” said Cllr Hayward.

“By creating a market through Boots, there’s a demographic issue as to who will access it.

“More than that, local health organisations know about parents and what their needs are.

“Parents that need help usually need help accessing it.”

She has no regrets about locking horns with Mr Cameron over the issue in her first week.

“I don’t think what I did was controversial at all,” said Cllr Hayward.

“We are facing difficult times. I think what the government is doing is detrimental to the country and I’m going to speak out about it. If the leader of the council does not do it, then who else will?”

But Cllr Tom Simon, deputy leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats on Camden Council, said: “Regarding the issue of whether this will reach those who need it the most, I think that the council should be taking steps to make sure parents are aware of it.

“The new council leader launching a broadside against this pilot policy is counter-productive in this respect.

“If there are issues with the implementation of this policy, then that is why there is a pilot scheme first – to identify those issues.”

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