On Monday (11 January 2016) Prime Minister David Cameron kicked off the New Year by making a number of pledges concerning reforms to relationship support and the prevention of poverty, and utilising the former coalition’s Troubled Families programme to target the improvement of parenting skills and make things such as parenting classes ‘the norm’.
Mr Cameron yesterday commented on the importance of strong families and how they are the ‘best anti-poverty measure ever invented’. Among the reforms announced was the pledge to double funding for relationship counselling and support for separating couples to £70 million over the next 5 years. The funding, intended for organisations such as One Plus One and Relate, who provide specialist advice and support for those experiencing the breakdown of a relationship, will be spent in part on the training of over 10,000 professionals in order to provide better quality and more widely available support for separating couples. Relate’s CEO, Chris Sherwood, was keen to express the impact the funding would have on children within separating or struggling families:
‘We are delighted by the announcement of increased funding for relationship support, something that Relate has long been calling for. Relationship support can help to reduce family breakdown, which can result in poor outcomes for children.
‘This funding could make a real difference to the life chances of thousands of children.’
The new reforms announced on Monday seem, on the surface, to be an attempt at addressing some of the difficulties exacerbated by the legal aid cuts introduced by LASPO in 2013, and have been welcomed by relationship-focused organisations nationwide. Any funding towards family counselling is gratefully accepted by those who receive it; yet sights continue to be set on couples undergoing separation, and how to effectively support them. Jo Edwards, the chair of mediation group Resolution, emphasised the significance of giving attention to those still struggling:
‘We wholeheartedly welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister of a boost of funding for relationship support and counselling. We believe that, if a relationship has any prospect of being saved, support and resources must be made available for couples, particularly where children are concerned.
‘However, equal attention needs to be given to the needs of separated and separating families. Support for legal help during separation for those who need it, especially for people who need to escape an abusive relationship, is of vital importance. This need is even more stark after family cases were removed from the scope of legal aid three years ago. While many relationships go on to separate, their needs, and those of children, must be considered as an equal priority for the government.’
Do these reforms even scratch the surface of the problems since the implementation of LASPO? Does more still need to be done to support families? Have your say and join the debate on Twitter @JordansFamLaw, using #familylaw