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The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has reiterated the Government's commitment to family relationships and expressed his concern of the effect of family breakdown on society.
Speaking last week at the annual conference of the relationship counsellors' organisation, Relate, Mr Duncan Smith said: "I am unapologetic for my support of families and marriages... It's right that this government is committed to strong stable families... we can't ignore the wealth of evidence that shows the importance of this."
Mr Duncan Smith's think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice, estimates the annual cost of family breakdown at between £20 and £24 billion. Yet, Mr Duncan Smith said the amount the UK spends on the prevention of family breakdown is only around 0.02% of what is spent on dealing with the consequences.
Using the example of Norway, he told the conference how lessons could be learnt from the work they are doing with couples who are thinking of ending their relationship. Norway encourages partners to consider each stage of their breakdown process and explain the implications of their separation on their children. He claimed this makes people think twice about their decisions and the results have shown that couples stay together as a result.
The minister also expressed concern at people's expectations of marriage. "People's expectation of marriage is unsustainable... we have seen expectations rising but understanding falling," he said. He went on to address the stress that couples can be put under as a result of money issues and warned how the cost of the "fairy tale" wedding is leaving couples starting their lives together in debt, which can be a precursor for failure.
Mr Duncan Smith concluded his address by stressing the importance of support for families and said how "no government can ignore the importance of healthy families" and that "Relate must always be at the heart of that".
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