Nick Gulliford works with Affinities which helps people learn more about themselves and their relationships through research-based psychometric inventories and interactive learning. He stresses the importance of healthy marriages and relationships and proposes some reforms to the process of registering births and marriages.
Two recent Acts of Parliament applicable in England and Wales – the Statistics and Registration Service Act and the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act – and a report from the Audit Commission, “Hearts and minds: commissioning from the voluntary sector” have – to some small extent - brought into sharper focus issues concerning family life that successive governments have tried to sweep under the carpet.
These challenges, including whether staff in Register Offices should be signposting couples to marriage preparation and relationship education services, and whether local authorities should be publishing local policies to promote domestic and social cohesion, hover on the edge of the political agenda. Most political angels fear to tread there.
Labour politicians deny there is a breakdown in society; Conservatives make speeches, but omit any reference to divorce or relationship breakdown as a cause of it in their local government election manifestos. However, David Cameron has recently brought the issue into sharper focus. He said:
"Now I know there are some who think politics should stay out of issues like relationships... I think politics has been way behind the public on this. People are talking about family, marriage, parenting, relationships - about how to bring up kids - like never before... In 1996, President Clinton introduced funding for projects that "encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families." And President Bush continued, setting up the 'Healthy Marriage Initiative', which funds 'marriage education services' nationwide. For too long, politicians here have been afraid of getting into this territory, for fear of looking old-fashioned or preachy.”
Should we be surprised at this reluctance to engage realistically with difficult family issues? Not really; they have been with us since Cain killed his brother Abel. Why does the current situation require an exceptionally creative response? Quite simply, it is not sustainable.