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Family Law

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08 OCT 2009

Family policy becomes major election issue

As the last of the three major political party conferences concludes, it has emerged that family policy will be a major political issue in the forthcoming general election.

The government and opposition have both announced that they will be bringing out green papers on families and relationships by the end of the year.

At the Labour conference last week the Children's Secretary Ed Balls pledged more services to target fathers and whole families, as opposed to mothers and children alone.

"Relationships are now firmly on the agenda. I think our families green paper is an opportunity to challenge ourselves across public services, to think about the strength of families' relationships and how that impacts on the wellbeing of our children," Mr Balls said.

Speaking at the Conservative conference in Manchester yesterday, Maria Miller, the shadow minister for families confirmed the Tories are to go ahead with their plans to recognise marriage in the tax system.

In her speech to the conference Ms Miller said: "It is not because we want to go back to any 1950s ideals of family life. It's because it's empirically proven that marriage provides a stable framework for our lives. With the evidence right in front of us, it's madness not to support marriage. That's why we're committed to introducing the recognition of marriage in the tax and benefit system."

"In turbulent times, it's our family who we turn to. The family, not the state, is our best support system," she added.

At a Conservative fringe event hosted by the NSPCC, the shadow children's secretary, Michael Gove, said children need to be taken out of unstable situations earlier and placed for adoption.

The Liberal Democrat conference backed a series of proposals to make children safer and ease the burden on social workers across the UK. The conference passed a motion calling for the scrapping of the children's database ContactPoint and investing the savings into more front line services.

Perhaps sensing the political agenda, the relationships research organisation One Plus One, today published a major review of the international research literature on the consequences and impact of relationship breakdown.

Professor Sir Michael Rutter, a trustee of One Plus One, emphasises that their report is not intended to be political. In his foreword to the report he said: "Many people hold strong views about marriage and divorce based on religious belief or ideology but One Plus One sought instead to approach the topic of the effects of couple relationship breakdown on the basis of a dispassionate, thoughtful, critical assessment of the evidence".

The report, When Couples Part: Understanding the Consequences for Adults and Children, found that couple relationship breakdown is strongly associated with adult and child disadvantage.

Penny Mansfield, Director of One Plus One said: "When Couples Part shows that although separation and divorce is now commonplace in the UK the negative impacts are as marked as ever and may be getting worse as more adults and children are affected compared with previous generations."

To read an executive summary of the report, click here.

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