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Cameron promises practical help for families and parenting

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-12-10 at 13.33.48 David Cameron has given a speech to the Relate charity today, setting out the broad parameters of his family policy. The main new announcement is greater investment in the kind of relationship counselling services provided by Relate. He also discusses his initiative to combat the early sexualisation of children and backs Frank Field's focus on the earliest years of a child's life.

Although it gets a brief mention there is an overall shift away from his pre-election focus on marriage. "When I talk about families," he says, "I don’t just mean the married with two children model." He continues:

"Yes, I am pro-commitment, back marriage and think it’s a wonderful institution. But to me, a strong family is defined not by its shape, but by the love and support that’s in it – and we need to be there for all of them."

Other key extracts:

Family policy should be at the heart of good public policy: "Families are the building blocks of a strong, cohesive society. This isn’t a hunch. A whole body of evidence backs it up. When parents have bad relationships, their child is more likely to live in poverty, fail at school, end up in prison, be unemployed later in life. It would be wrong for public policy to ignore all this. No one who wants to tackle some of our deepest social problems – and the massive economic costs they bring – has a hope unless they understand the importance of family."

Neither laissez-faire nor nannying but thoughtful support for families: "I believe government should keep itself to asking a series of simple questions: What is that government does which is good for families and relationships – and can we do more? What does it do that’s bad – and how can we stop it? What would strengthen families and make it easier to bring up kids – and how can we support that? It’s by asking those questions that you arrive at our family-friendly reform agenda. Not laissez-faire: just leaving families to get on with it in a hostile world. Not nanny-state: some bureaucratic system telling parents what to do. Just thoughtful, sensible, practical and modern support to help families with the issues they face."

Marriage should be recognised: "I also think it’s wrong that we’re one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t properly recognise marriage in the tax system – and I want to see that change. Of course, I know not everyone agrees with this proposal – and as part of the coalition agreement, we have agreed with the Liberal Democrats that they will abstain on any budget resolutions on transferable tax allowances for married couples.  But my view remains that we should recognise and value the commitment that people make to one another. And by the way, that’s whether it’s between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and another woman."

Tackling the stigma attached to relationship advice: "I can announce today we are going to put funding for relationship support on a stable footing. From now on, we will dedicate £7.5 million a year to supporting relationships and this will give you [Relate], and other organisations working hard to support families, the certainty you need to plan for the future. I can also announce that we will offer up space in government buildings after hours so you can cut your waiting lists and see more couples. Another area where we can help is in fighting the stigma against seeking relationship advice. It’s a tragedy that so many couples feel they can’t seek help because of what others think. Government can take a lead here. We are reviewing sex education in schools, so young people learn about the importance of relationships early on. And we are working with business and the media to see what they can do – in the products they create and campaigns they run – to de-stigmatise relationship support."

> Earlier this week the Centre for Social Justice produced a report on how the collapse of cohabiting relationships is driving family breakdown.


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