All policy and legislation to pass new government “families test”

All policy and legislation to pass new government “families test”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has drawn up a “families test” of five questions which civil servants must address before policy or legislation can be brought to Parliament.

At The Relationship Alliance Summit held earlier this year in London, prime minister David Cameron announced that a “families test” would be introduced for all new domestic government policy to “account for the impact of their policies on the family”.

“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,” said Cameron.

Developed in consultation with Relationship Alliance, the “families test” consists of five questions about the impact of new policy and legislation on people’s relationships, including: relationship quality; separation; formation; transitions; parenthood and caring.

The five “families test” questions are:

  • What kind of impact might the policy have on family formation?
  • What kind of impact will the policy have on families going through key transitions such as becoming parents, getting married, fostering or adopting, bereavement, redundancy, new caring responsibilities or the onset of a long-term health condition?
  • What impacts will the policy have on all family members’ ability to play a full role in family life, including with respect to parenting and other caring responsibilities?
  • How does the policy impact families before, during and after couple separation?
  • How does the policy impact those families most at risk of deterioration of relationship quality and breakdown?

The government will require that civil servants consider these questions in the development of policy and legislation, and aims to ensure that families are taken into account in the early stages of policy development.

Cameron has given the DWP secretary of state, Iain Duncan Smith, the responsibility of delivering the government’s relationship support policy. Mr Duncan Smith said: “Families are the foundations of society – and we know that strong and stable families can have a huge impact on improving the life chances of our children. So in order to build a stronger society and secure Britain’s future we must ensure we support them, and the relationships on which they are built.”

Chair of the Relationship Alliance and chief executive officer of relationship counselling organisation, Relate, Ruth Sutherland, said: “This is an important step towards putting families and relationships at the heart of public policy, something we have been campaigning passionately for. We are proud to have supported the development of the test and we look forward to seeing it in action, helping policymakers to put the interests of all families at the centre of their work.”

The DWP is investing in excess of £20 million to benefit relationship support policies in an effort to ensure “family stability” and to “reduce the risk of relationship breakdown”.