The Relationships Foundation is calling for a new deal between families and society.
National goals such as improved education, better social care and public health, less welfare dependency, reduced crime, higher levels of wellbeing, greater life chances for children all require a strong positive contribution from families. Yet families in the UK are among the most pressured in Europe, with the estimated costs of breakdown now exceeding £47 billion a year. So what should society expect from families, and what support should they expect in return? The Relationships Foundation suggests a Family Deal that clarifies expectations, promotes responsibility and provides the framework for coherent policy.
The family deal should be at the heart of understanding of rights and responsibilities between the government and the general public. It needs to be clearly stated and easily understood. It needs to be written into departmental plans. But it must also be more than just a political pledge and needs ultimately to be an expression of social consensus. The resulting responsibilities for both families and government will be expressed in many policy areas in terms of entitlements, obligations, rewards, and behavioural incentives. The government should formally spell out to the people of the United Kingdom what it needs and expects from families if goals are to be achieved. It must also set out a clear strategy for supporting families. Only when there is a clear plan and a strong leadership at the heart of government can we begin to make progress towards becoming the most family-friendly country in Europe, the government’s stated goal.
Much is expected of families in terms of the social connections that are the foundation of well-being, supporting the healthy development of children, the financial support of family members and the provision of care. But as our Pressure Gauge report demonstrates, families in the UK are among the most pressured in Europe. Financial and work pressures, care responsibilities and poor living environments all hinder families’ capacity to enable the best possible outcomes. The Relationships Foundation has argued that there should be a social budget each year to match the Government’s economic budget. It would set out the current social state of the nation and reveal the government’s plans to strengthen family relationships and support society.
It’s time for the Family Deal!