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19 August 2014

A fresh family focus

A fresh family focus

In a speech yesterday, prime minister David Cameron set out new measures to help families and a fresh commitment to put family life at the heart of policy.

It is proposed that there will be a new focus on helping new parents, supporting couples to stay together and addressing underlying causes of family breakdown. Cameron spoke of helping families as being the best way to improve the life chances and opportunities of children in Britain.

The Government's troubled families programme claims that the cost to the taxpayer of broken relationships, strained ties and abandoned children is around £2,000 per household.

Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton and Jeremy Lefroy, MP for Stafford commented in an article for the Telegraph that "family breakdown and, in particular, the decline of marriage as the foundation stone of our society, are commonly assumed to be a concern of those who are out of touch with the modern world. That is not our experience when listening to constituents."

David Cameron said, "For me, nothing matters more than family. It's at the centre of my life and the heart of my politics. It's family that brings up children, teaches values, passes on knowledge, instils in us all the responsibility to be good citizens and to live in harmony with others.

"The reality is that in the past the family just hasn't been central to the way government thinks. So you get a whole load of policy decisions which take no account of the family and sometimes make these things worse –whether it's the benefits system incentivising couples to live apart or penalising those who go out to work or whether it's excessive bureaucracy preventing loving couples from adopting children with no family at all. We can't go on having government taking decisions like this which ignore the impact on the family.

"Whether it's tackling crime and anti-social behaviour or debt and drug addiction;whether it's dealing with welfare dependency or improving education outcomes - whatever the social issue we want to grasp - the answer should always begin with family."

Alliance member CARE has welcomed the announcement that new policies will be examined for their impact on the family, with policies that fail to support family life not being allowed to proceed. Their chief executive, Nola Leach, said: "CARE has long-advocated and encouraged the government to adopt policies which support and encourage fruitful family life and today's comments from the prime minister are very welcome.

"Although we have been disappointed by some of this government's actions and policies, there have been a number of positive steps such as the reintroduction of marriage in the tax system taking effect from April 2015 and the leadership in promoting improved protection of children online.

"There is still a considerable amount of work to be done to bring a tax and benefits system which will effectively support families. Our hope is that Mr Cameron follows through on his promise to 'make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe."

The Conservatives hope that tens of thousands of couples will benefit from relationship counselling, with the annual budget doubled to £19.5 million. The plans also include new parents getting extra help through ante-natal classes and more advice from health visitors once the baby has arrived.

There is also a plan for support for more than 500,000 families facing multiple problems, such as unemployment, anti-social behaviour, debt and truancy. The programme expands from its current focus on 120,000 families, with work starting immediately in over 50 council areas before spreading across the country.

Recent figures show that the number of adoptions is up by 25 per cent in the last year, due to increased financial support to councils, voluntary groups and a faster adoption process. Home for Good are continuing to encourage churches to be involved in this process too.