Newsletter April 2011

The Relationships Foundation Newsletter April 2011


A day in the life of Sam Barker, our Head of Family Policy

“The day starts with breakfast and the Today programme, a short cycle to the office and I’m at my desk by 9.00. I always take a moment to focus on the vision – getting government and society to put family at the heart of policy. This drives my work, and remembering it helps me contextualise and prioritise the projects of the day.


Much that is cutting edge in politics, and even now in research and public opinion, will appear online, so the first thing to do is to catch up with what is going on in the blogosphere and the wider news media. RSS readers and Twitter are invaluable in keeping a finger on the 24/7 news pulse. Where there are pesky pay walls, this might necessitate popping out to the newsagents round the corner. Any press contact has to be done early in the day, because of editorial meetings and printing deadlines. Making our research newsworthy, and applying it as situations arise, is a key part of my job, and this involves working closely with journalists to meet their needs and our priorities.


I can then turn to medium term pressures: thank you notes to people I have met, briefings to politicians suggesting contributions to debates, and Oral or Written questions they might like to table.


Quality briefings depend on good data, and lots of my time is spent searching for and reading articles. Google Scholar is an indispensible tool, as is the University Library across town. Freedom of Information requests can be time consuming to process, but often yield good, new data which can be powerful. Picking the brains of my office colleagues in our weekly team meetings, or informal chats, is often the most fruitful source of facts.


I normally get away from my desk for a hearty lunch and the World at One, then the afternoon is spent covering longer term projects: picking up research, and penning sections of the reports that we produce. Finally it’s home for a run around the block and the usual mix of chores and leisure. The day ends, as it does for so many, with the eternal conundrum: Paxman or my pillow?!”



Growth key: but Family Friendliness needs more

The Relationships Foundation response to the Budget

Tax breaks, first time buyer and mortgage interest support and fuel duty changes may benefit families in the short term: but it won’t relieve the long term pressure on families, or stem the tide of family breakdown.


While inflation and world events are adding to immediate pressures, there are also longer-term, structural pressures on UK families and Britain is languishing at the bottom of almost every European league table relating to family pressure.


Commenting, Michael Trend, Executive Director of the Relationships Foundation, said:


“It is hugely disappointing that the Childhood and Families taskforce has had no impact on this budget, and that the question of how to make Britain family friendly was neglected.”


“Employment is the crucial route out of our social and economic problems, but David Cameron will repeat the mistakes of the past if he drives the economy at the expense of family and community.”


“Even as George Osborne tries to save money, family breakdown is costing taxpayers £42 billion and rising: the Government has a strategy for growth which supports families – now it needs a strategy for families to support growth.”


Click here for more.


Family Friendly press watch

With the first anniversary of last year’s UK general election on the horizon, the Relationships Foundation is asking: What has become of the coalition government’s pledge to make the UK the ‘most family-friendly country in Europe?’


Articles in the ‘Press Watch’ section of our website increasingly show a widespread concern about the government’s lack of clear strategy for the family to ensure effective cross departmental action. Family appears to be a sideline for a Department of Education focused on flagship policies of school reform. The Childhood and Families Taskforce, billed as the driving force of family policy, is invisible and rarely meets. For all the emphasis on wellbeing, there is no clear narrative of how progress will be made in contrast to the plans to tackle the deficit and boost economic growth. While the pressure on household budgets, and thus families, is highly visible, it is far harder for families to see clearly how they are being strengthened and supported. Relationships Foundation has been making the case for a clear family policy for a number of years: we hope that as a broadly based clamour of concern increases we will soon see a clear response.


Relationships Foundation welcomes the launch of Action for Happiness

We welcome the launch of Action for Happiness. Many of the recommended actions in this new movement established by Lord Richard Layard and Dr Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College, are about relationships with family, friends and neighbours. While there is much that individuals can do to increase their own happiness, and that of others, we believe that it’s essential to consider how policy impacts on the motivation, opportunity and support for relationships. Click here for our A Relationships State of the Nation.


In seeking to ensure that policy provides an environment that sustains rather than undermines relationships, Relationships Foundation continues to call for all policy to be subjected to a triple test – economic, environmental and social.