House of Commons Library Briefing
The Family Test was introduced in 2014 in England. All new domestic laws and government policies must face the Family Test to make sure they support strong and stable families. The Department for Work & Pensions has published departmental advice on carrying out the Family Test.
The Family Test is not a statutory requirement and publishing the results is encouraged but not required. Relatively few Family Test results have been published leading to criticism that the policy is not yet successfully embedded in all Government Departments.
Announcement of the Family Test
David Cameron announced the introduction of the Family Test in a speech in August 2014:
I said previously that I wanted to introduce a family test into government. Now that test is being formalised as part of the impact assessment for all domestic policies. Put simply that means every single domestic policy that government comes up with will be examined for its impact on the family.
In October 2014 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published guidance on implementing the Family Test. The Test consists of five questions policy makers need to consider:
- What kinds of impact might the policy have on family formation?
- 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?
- 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?
- How does the policy impact families before, during and after couple separation?
- How does the policy impact those families most at risk of deterioration of relationship quality and breakdown?
The application of the Family Test must be documented and the guidance asks Departments to consider publishing the outcomes but it is not a requirement. Very few Family Tests have been published to date.
Implementation of the Family Test
MPs have asked numerous Parliamentary Questions about how the Test is being implemented, how many assessments have been carried out, and whether assessments will be published.
In March 2016 Implementing the Family Test: A review of progress one year on was published by The Family and Childcare Trust, Relate, and Relationship Foundation supported by 14 other charities. The organisations had written to 14 relevant Government Departments asking about the guidance they had issued on implementing the Family Test, and assessments they had carried out or published since its introduction in October 2014. The report contains the responses and questions the commitment of some Departments to implementing the Family Test.
Calls for the Family Test to be a statutory requirement
There have been calls from some MPs, the Centre for Social Justice, and the Relationship Alliance, to make the Family Test a statutory requirement. This was the intention of Caroline Ansell’s Private Member’s Bill (PMB) which was introduced during the 2015-16 Parliamentary Session. The Government has resisted these calls, arguing that it would reduce the Test to a tick box exercise. Priti Patel, the Minister for Employment, set out the Government position during the Second Reading debate on Caroline Ansell’s PMB:
Placing the family test on a legislative footing, however, runs the risk of turning the test into a tick-box exercise across Government Departments, when our ambition is to work across government with Departments to embed the benefits of thinking about policy from a family perspective at all stages of policy development, not just complying with legislative requirements.
The Full Report
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