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Placing Family at the Heart of Society

Placing Family at the Heart of Society

About this Workstream

We are increasingly aware of the terrible social consequences of the breakdown of families, both extended and immediate. That the UK has one of the highest rates of family breakdown in the Western world and that the social and economic cost is one we can no longer afford to ignore is evident to those that would look. Family breakdown is damaging to people and society: it drives many of the social problems we see in Britain.

Children growing up in unstable families tend to do worse at school, are more likely to be involved in crime and to live in poverty. It is also very costly for the government and the taxpayer: costing the country up to £46 billion a year. Support structures for disadvantaged families, including parents and children in vulnerable situations, are also severely lacking. What’s more, the current benefit structure is hugely detrimental to working families who are looking to provide for their children and older family members, as benefits are either insufficient or marginal income tax rates disincentivise work. For many, work doesn’t pay – the majority of children who live in poverty in the UK have an employed parent.

We need a political environment and social architecture that puts family at the heart of public services and public policy. As the smallest of our institutions, the ‘household’ represents the governance, care and support of our parents and children, and underpins the structure of the community and the nation. We need institutions and policies that strengthen these relationships, which in turn will increase the strength of community. Marriage and family stability helps to cultivate permanent relationships which can be extended to those within and without the family group who are feeling isolated and lonely. It also tends to produce stable individuals, whose very rootedness renders them strong and adaptable in the face of new challenges and crises. We therefore seek to support people in having children, and through early intervention and holistic through-life and familial care, enable people to care for their children in the best way possible.

Above all we believe that everyone at all levels of society needs to be offered better ways to integrate family with work, so that having and bringing up children is no longer regarded as a private or part-time activity. To this end we should reconsider the restoration of the ‘family wage’, and proper in-home or at-work childcare. In short, we wish to move beyond tired ‘culture wars’ in the field of family policy towards an approach which combines support for families and the neglected needs of children, with gender equality and genuine freedom of choice.

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