This paper considers the experiences of people ordered by the courts in one area of England to attend parenting education classes and also parents who voluntarily attend these programmes. There has been increasing intervention into family life, designed to improve ‘poor’ parenting, most notably the use of parenting education programmes. These programmes deliver skills training with the aim of enhancing parenting practices and improving the behaviour of children. The paper provides analysis of parenting programmes delivered by a voluntary organisation service and considers how the parents are surveilled by the parenting workers, who in turn are also subject to scrutiny and monitoring by their managers, using the Foucauldian concepts of pastoral power and governmentality. While there are many theoretical analyses of welfare interventions this paper uses in-depth interviews with those providing and receiving these interventions (n = 22), in one service in the north of England.