It’s time for the Family Test


Following our report of January 2009 The Triple Test, Relationships Foundation set out the specific case for family proofing policy in 2010. Over the years family has been a recurrent theme of David Cameron’s speeches as both opposition leader and Prime Minister. Although the role and importance of family is linked in these speeches to broader themes such as social mobility, life chances, wellbeing, responsibility or security, it has Family test guidenot always been clear how these insights informed day to day policymaking. As Prime Minister, David Cameron first announced that he wanted “a family test applied to all domestic policy” in 2011 saying that “If it hurts families, if it undermines commitment, if it tramples over the values that keeps people together, or stops families from being together, then we shouldn’t do it.”[1] The formal introduction of the Family Test had to wait a further three years, with the Prime Minister’s speech on families in August 2014[2] leading to implementation by DWP in October 2014 and the publication of guidance as to how and when departments should conduct the Test.[3]

The objective of the Family Test is “to introduce an explicit family perspective to the policy making process, and ensure that potential impacts on family relationships and functioning are made explicit and recognised in the process of developing new policy.”

The argument made in the guidance notes for the Family Test summarises neatly and fully the need for such assessment: “Whether intended or not, a wide range of government activity has a direct or indirect impact on families and families in turn shape how individuals engage with policy initiatives and use public services. While supporting families is an explicit goal in some areas of public policy, and is implicit in other many other areas, across Government as a whole we do not always think systematically about how policy can support strong and stable family relationships or how we might inadvertently impact on families.”


[1] Speech by David Cameron on 15 August 2011,  https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-on-the-fightback-after-the-riots

[2] Speech by David Cameron on families, 18 August 2014, www.gov.uk/government/speeches/david-cameron-on-families

[3] Department for Work and Pensions (2014) The Family Test: Guidance for Government Departments, www.gov.uk/government/publications/family-test-assessing-the-impact-of-policies-on-families