But one mother apparently took quite the opposite view, giving her 13-year-old daughter three ecstasy tablets as a gift to celebrate her becoming a teenager.

Middlesbrough mayor Ray Mallon made the shocking claim while discussing problem families in the north-east town where more than 360 children are currently in care.

He said many kids were being let down by parents who abused alcohol and drugs, reports Metro.

“Many of these children are in care due to neglect because of poor parenting” he said. “There was one where a mother gave a 13-year-old child ecstasy tablets – you know, hard drugs – for her birthday. I just despair. One family costs £600,000 a year due to numerous interventions by the council and our partner agencies.’

Mallon is a former detective who has earned the nickname of RoboCop due to his zero tolerance stance against crime. He said children should be ‘targeted in the womb’ to stop the problem.

The government-backed Troubled Families programme has been set up to tackle such issues across the UK with the aim of helping 120,000 households in England turn their lives around by 2015.