The Relationships Foundation is a Cambridge-based think-tank with a strongly Christian flavour. It has a particular interest in trying to measure general well-being - a theme of David Cameron's in opposition while the economy was booming, but stressed less in government in finanically straightened times.
It warns today that Coalition disagreements over tax breaks for marriage - which the Guardian tried to stoke earlier this week - risk missing what it sees as the big picture – that "families affect everyone and they affect every part of life". The Relationships Foundation has previously welcomed the Task Force for Childhood and Families.
Noting that the family wasn't even mentioned in the first coalition document - but a whole page was dedicated to the environment - the RF challenges Mr Cameron to substantiate his rhetoric on the family.
In a press statement it says:
"While there is merit in refocusing the former DCFS on its original role as the Department for Education, losing Family from any Cabinet minister’s primary responsibility is a strange act, given the Conservative manifesto pledge to make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe. (The DfE website defines its role as ‘responsible for education and children’s services’, with the only formal responsibility for families disclosed so far delegated to junior ministers.) But there needs to be top-level leadership on the family and there is much to recommend the view that family policy should have a central role in government, based perhaps at the Cabinet Office, rather than with one of the spending departments."
David Willetts co-ordinated family policy in opposition but that responsibility has been passed to Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather in government.
The RF has argued that family policy cannot be the responsibility of one or even a few ministers. Instead, in a paper published in March the Relationships Foundation called for government to introduce a system of family impact statements across Whitehall so that every department considered how policy changes might weaken or strengthen family life.
A recent report from the Cambridge-based Relationships Foundation, 'Progressive Families, Progressive Britain', recommends a 'triple lock' on all policy ideas. It argues that all policies should be 'family-proofed' as well as measured for their economic and environmental impact.
The report argues that family policy cannot be isolated in one or two Whitehall departments but policymakers need to recognise that nearly all government action impacts the family. David Cameron has promised to appoint Iain Duncan Smith to chair a Cabinet committee if he becomes Prime Minister. Mr Duncan Smith will be tasked with co-ordinating policies that fight poverty and impact the family.
The RF report contains this illustrative graphic:
RF's Executive Director and former Tory MP Michael Trend promises a second report in the next few weeks to analyse how Whitehall might practically deliver this 'triple lock'.