Just returned from the press conference at which Iain Duncan Smith and his team of policy advisers presented the Breakthrough Britain report. You can access a full copy here. Perhaps inevitably the journalists' questions focused on the proposal for a tax break for married couples. My guess is that this one recommendation will dominate the rest of the day's news cycle. Here are my own contextual thoughts:
- The financial support for married and two parent couples is important because there are currently penalties for couples who live together and get married. These penalties may not affect the lifestyle decisions of comfortably-off people but they matter when you are struggling to make ends meet. We should not only look at these issues through middle class eyes.
- Breakthrough Britain does not pretend that a tax allowance alone will repair marriage. Unlike previous Tory policies on families there are many other pro-family proposals including recommendations to review family law, provide couples with relationship education, Frank Field's option of frontloading child benefit, more help for carers and Cabinet-level representation for the family.
- The family breakdown section of the report is just one of six sections. Breakthrough Britain is clear that we won't tackle poverty unless we also tackle the problems of addiction, indebtedness, worklessness and educational failure. The sixth section focuses on the voluntary and charitable sector and its role in building 'the nation of the second chance'.
- Some of the best policies in the report are, for me: extension of the right-to-buy, simplification of child benefit, requirements for lone parents to be available for undertake 20 hours of work when their youngest child reaches five, payment of welfare-to-work providers according to results-based contracts, premium pay for inner city teachers, 'Pioneer Schools' free of LEA control and based on the US charter schools model and with funding voucherised, stricter classification of cannabis, a move towards abstinence-based drug rehab, measures to strengthen credit unions, greater funding of debt advice services, financial education for 14-year-olds, simplification of Gift Aid, a V-card reward scheme for young volunteers, the piloting of Community Growth Trusts (of which more soon) and fairer treatment of faith-based organisations.
In total there are 188 policy recommendations. If you want to read them all please download this pdf.
Iain Duncan Smith set out the big picture ideas behind his report on YourPlatform earlier today.