The metaphor was borrowed to stress the importance the Government places on the flagship National Parenting Strategy she was launching. The wide-ranging plans are designed to help parents with support and information when problems arise – not because the Government wants to tell parents what to do, Ms Campbell stresses, but because many mums and dads could do with a little help.
In her speech announcing the strategy she also claimed parenting had become more complex: "Research tells us that parenting is becoming more stressful," she said. Parents of teenagers, she claimed, are increasingly likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety, with groups facing specific pressures such as lone parents or those on low incomes more likely to struggle.
A range of social changes also affects parents, Ms Campbell said. Mobile phones and the internet make supervising children and keeping them safe more difficult. "Parents have to deal with the constant exposure of children to sexualised images in music, adverts and magazines," she added. "Alcohol and drug abuse, the fear of street and knife crime and the mistrust of strangers can make some parents very protective, leading them to unwittingly lower their child's resilience through less exposure to risk."
In this context, she said, the parenting strategy will ensure the Government is supporting parents so that the cement sets in positive ways.
The key commitments in the strategy include an overall investment of £18 million over the next three years to improve access to information, advice and support for parents.
This will include £500,000 to fund information for parents whose relationships are in difficulty, to help prevent separation or ensure the wellbeing of children when it occurs.
The popular Play, Talk, Read campaign to promote literacy and communication skills for parents with children aged up to three years will be backed for another three years with £1m a year.
Meanwhile the strategy includes a new commitment to introduce an order to reinforce the legal position of kinship carers – an estimated 20,000 people in Scotland are bringing up the children of relatives because their birth parents are incapable or unwilling to do so.
Other plans include an offer of parenting programmes to parents of young children with behavioural problems, extending the family nurse partnership programme which helps first-time teenage parents and a pledge to make policies and services more "dad-friendly".
There will also be more work to improve the poor social and educational results achieved by and for children in care.
Meanwhile, specialist childcare services will be developed where there are gaps. "We want to see social enterprise or public social partnership models to provide childcare for parents working shifts, living in rural areas, or who need out-of-school care during holidays," Ms Campbell said.
Overall the strategy will have three key areas of activity. "We want to champion the importance of Scotland's parents, we are highlighting the positive difference parents can make and we want to strengthen the help and support on offer to parents."
She was challenged at the launch about whether more efforts to tackle poverty would have the biggest impact for many struggling families. "The fact that welfare policy is reserved means we have one hand tied behind our back in dealing with benefit reforms," she explained. "Westminster still controls some of the crucial powers we need to tackle persistent problems. But this strategy is about doing what we can, including commitments around childcare and family nurse partnerships."
The question about poverty came from Dr Marsha Scott, principal officer for health policy and planning at West Lothian Council, who emphasised afterwards that she welcomed the comprehensive nature of the parenting strategy, but added: "Some of the drivers of stress on parents are things the strategy doesn't help with. We have seen really depressing figures on women's employment from Glasgow Caledonian University showing that of 22,800 full-time jobs lost between March 2011 and March 2012, 98% were women. Given that 97% of parents on benefit are already single mothers, combined with housing benefit and welfare reform, that is a toxic mix."
Reactions to the strategy have been broadly positive. The launch was held at the conference of Parenting Across Scotland, a group of charities offering support to children and families. Project manager Clare Simpson said the words of the strategy now needed to be turned into action. "Words are aspirations," she said. "We're pleased the Government is committed to doing an audit of services for parents of teenagers as more needs to be done to help them. In addition, we believe there's more of a commitment needed to extend health visiting further, as well as a recruitment drive, so that parents can get the help they need in the crucial early years.
"Currently 72%, rising to 82% in deprived areas, say they don't know where to go for help. If we can direct families to the right support and services, we can save problems later on."
Ian Maxwell, national manager of Families Need Fathers Scotland, welcomed the emphasis on including fathers in consideration of the help parents need. He added: "The strategy makes the key point that when discussing parenting the father can be forgotten and left to feel excluded, particularly where fathers have separated from the mother of their child and no longer share the family home. This explicit acknowledgement by the Scottish Government marks a real step forward."
There have been criticisms of the Government's forthcoming Children and Young People Bill for the limited references it makes to the role of parents. Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said the new strategy should provide an opportunity for a rethink.
She added: "It would not be sensible to progress the Children and Young People Bill without ensuring it takes full account of this new Parenting Strategy. The strategy's focus on providing parents with the right support at the right time is also welcome acknowledgement that a parent's wellbeing has a direct impact on a child's wellbeing."
Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People Tam Baillie said he fully supported the parenting strategy and said it would provide help for parents facing challenging circumstances, particularly in the early years.
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