Nothing matters more than family, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced, and all policies must pass a ‘family test’ before they become law.
From later this year, the impact of all government policies on families and family life will have to be fully considered, he said. And if they are found to not be sufficiently family-friendly the policies will have to be rewritten the PM claimed.
This ‘family test’ was only one of a raft of family-friendly measures announced today. Funding for relationship counselling services delivered via Relate will also be doubled, to nearly £20 million, and antenatal services will now be obliged to offer advice on potential relationship difficulties in the wake of a new baby. Health visitors too must get in on the act – they will be now be required to offer new parents relationship support.
In addition, there will be a significant expansion in a government initiative aimed at helping so-called ‘problem’ families – those who have difficulties with unemployment and debt. This programme will now be available to 500,000 families, up from just 120,000.
Speaking in London, Mr Cameron said that “family and politics are inextricably linked”.
“Long before you get to the welfare state, it is family that is there to care for you when you are sick or when you fall on tough times. 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.”
It all sounds very grand, doesn’t it? I have no doubt that these policies will score points with some, but perhaps it could even be argued that David Cameron’s heart is in the right place. But the bottom line is very simple: the Coalition government has now been in power for more than four years and the next general election has begun to loom. It is a little late in the day to assume the mantle of family champion, after years of slashing benefits and imposing monolithic austerity measures. Where was this now-found family feeling when the government eliminated legal aid for almost all family law proceedings? Nowhere to be seen, that’s where.