We begin our days in families, and they care for us in old age. Our families touch every aspect of our development as human beings, and of our lives at work, at home, and in society. As such they offer the greatest potential for social change, for wealth, and wellbeing. Sideline family policy and you court systemic failure. The Relationships Foundation has been making the case for a clear over-arching family policy for a number of years.
The Relationships Foundation is interested in a broad range of relationships, but one of the most crucial, for private people and public policy alike, is the family. Research shows that stable, loving families are the heart of a strong society. Family relationships are key to social progress and need to have greater prominence in political debate due to their links to a wide range of social outcomes. The Relationships Foundation has been making the case for a clear over-arching family policy for a number of years. When families work well they bring great benefits, but when they go wrong they have a profound impact on public finances – our annually updated estimate of the costs of family failure now stands at £46bn.
All our family policy ideas rest on the core principles outlined on the “Big Idea” page of this website. But our family policy project has also developed a number of specific areas of work and campaigns. Alongside our Cost of Family Failure Index we have developed a Family Pressure Gauge, comparing European nations to each other. Financial and work pressures, combine with poor maternity and paternity provision, and poor living environments put British families among the most pressured in Europe.
It’s Time for the Family Day Bill. Families are key to our society. They are crucial for raising the next generation and teaching them social skills, as a well as providing emotional, physical, financial and spiritual care. So we have developed a Family Day Bill, which would give every parent of school-age children a weekend day off – the very time when children are not at school and need parenting. It would extend existing flexible working legislation, addressing the increasing prevalence of ‘shift-parenting’ and of some young children being left ‘home alone’. Employers would have to facilitate parents taking the same day off because the couple relationship is important in itself and vital for child development.
It’s Time for the Family Deal. We have been urging on British politicians and policy makers what we have called a Family Deal, formally spelling out what government needs and expects from families if goals are to be achieved, especially in the tough times we have been going through. In turn the government must set out a clear strategy for supporting families. The deal should be at the heart of the understanding of rights and responsibilities between the government and the general public. It needs to be clearly stated and easily understood. It needs to be written into departmental plans. Above all, it needs political leaders who will do more than pay lip service to family policy.
It’s time for family-proofing all policy. The issue is not whether policy should seek to influence family relationships, but whether that inevitable influence is intentional and to what end. In our latest report we argue that ‘family-proofing’ all policies – ensuring that they support rather than undermine family relationships – is an essential element of progressive politics.