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It was reported recently, that all new laws and government policies will first have to satisfy a new ‘Families Test’. Iain Duncan-Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary, has set out guidelines to be applied to all future legislation or policy before they can be approved by ministers.

Mr Duncan-Smith said:

“Families are the foundations of society – and we know that strong and stable families can have a huge impact on improving the life chances of our children. So in order to build a stronger society and secure Britain’s future we must ensure we support them, and the relationships on which they are built.

“…we are bringing this issue centre stage with a new test that will ensure every policy government introduced is assessed for its impact on the family.

“This is the truest representation of government on the side of hard-working families in Britain – demonstrating a clear and unqualified commitment to strengthening and supporting family life for our children and for generations to come.”

Ruth Sutherland, Chair of the Relationships Alliance and Chief Executive Officer of Relate, said:

“We very much welcome the implementation of the family test, which was announced at our Relationships Summit in August.

“This is an important step towards putting families and relationships at the heart of public policy, something we have been campaigning passionately for. We are proud to have supported the development of the test and we look forward to seeing it in action, helping policymakers to put the interests of all families at the centre of their work.”

The 5 ‘Families Test’ questions

1.    What kind of impact might the policy have on family formation?

2.    What kind of impact will the policy have on families going through key transitions such as becoming parents, getting married, fostering or adopting, bereavement, redundancy, new caring responsibilities or the onset of a long-term health condition?

3.    What impacts will the policy have on all family members’ ability to play a full role in family life, including with respect to parenting and other caring responsibilities?

4.    How does the policy impact families before, during and after couple separation?

5.    How does the policy impact those families most at risk of deterioration of relationship quality and breakdown?

Will they make a difference?

Do these proposals mean anything, or are they couched in such broad terms as to mean little in reality, put forward with one eye on next year’s General Election?

Commentators have also highlighted the apparent vagueness of the tests themselves. Do they support ‘marriage’ as Iain Duncan-Smith suggests, or do they support ‘all family forms’ as his junior minister, Steve Webb has said. It does not seem to be clear from these comments what the definition of a ‘family’ is being addressed by the tests.

These are all laudable aims for policymakers, but let us also hope that they are not undermined or completely frustrated by competing budgetary constraints that might come from the Treasury.

We at Paradigm Family Law await the first new laws or policy to satisfy the ‘Families Test’ with interest and will keep you posted on any further developments.


You can find the full HMGov press release by clicking on this link:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/family-test-assessing-the-impact-of-policies-on-families

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