Cost of Family Failure in the UK: £47 billion and still rising

On Valentine’s Day the Relationships Foundation, one of our member organisations, released its updated Cost of Family Failure Index in the UK, and can announce that family breakdown now costs the UK taxpayer £47bn per year. That’s £1,546 per taxpayer! However, the Index doesn’t even begin to take into account the often intense pain and suffering felt by those experiencing family failure – the broken hearts and the broken dreams. But it does show that family breakdown not only has this terrible human cost in terms of the emotional toll on all members of the family, but also an enormous financial cost to society as the taxpayer picks up the pieces.

Commenting on the figures, the Relationships Foundation’s Executive Director, Michael Trend, said:

“In the past year the government made some progress by introducing a Family Test of policy, which we welcomed, but which – especially in an election year – needs to be promoted and protected with vigour. The fact remains that the cost of family failure remains much too high.

“Our view is that if you sideline family policy you court systemic failure. If we as a country want to see real progress in improving wellbeing, increasing children’s life chances, higher educational attainment, less crime and reduced welfare dependency we need to take what this Index is telling us seriously. All political parties need a long term strategy to support the modern family.”

Only when people begin to take this cost seriously will they recognise how important relationships are to general wellbeing and happiness.

The full report can be read here.

UK Government to family proof policy

CAMBRIDGE – Last week the UK government published The Family Test guidance for government departments. Civil servants are now required to check their policies to ensure they will strengthen family life. One of our member organisations, The Relationships Foundation, has been making the case for this development for many years and plans to develop a test of the Family Test to challenge the government as to its progress.

The new government guidelines set out 5 questions that civil servants must apply to policy changes before they go ahead with them. The questions include: “What kind of impact might the policy have on family formation?” and “How does the policy impact those families most at risk of deterioration of relationship quality and breakdown?”

The government admitted that effect of policy on families “can often be overlooked” and hoped that the test will “introduce a family perspective to policy making by asking policy makers to anticipate the potential impact of policy on families at each stage of the policy making process.”

Social impact of policies

This is good news. It shows that the UK government is beginning to look at the social dimension of public policy and in turn it will make civil servants think more broadly about the social impact of policies.

In a press release, the Relationships Foundation said: “We welcome recent developments in government process, policy and practice. But this is, clearly, just a beginning and we have pointed out many false starts in the past. Along with its ongoing broader work the Relationships Foundation therefore intends to develop a Test of the Family Test and challenge the government as to how far and fast it is making progress.”

The Relationships Foundation’s case for this development started with the publication of The Triple Test six years ago. This proposed to ‘triple test’ all policy developments from an economic, environmental and social angle. More recently, they have developed this idea more specifically, particularly looking at family policy.

You can read their full press release here.


Family proofing policy: Time for implementation

CAMBRIDGE – British Prime Minister David Cameron announced today that domestic policies will have to be assessed for their impact on families. The idea of ‘family proofing’ of policies however is not new.  The Relationships Foundation, a member of the Relational Thinking Network, has been making a case for this since the run-up to the last elections with the publication of several papers.

In a response the organisation states that it not only welcomes the announcement but also points out that “a family test has been promised before (in October 2011) so it is essential that this time the government clearly set out how, and by whom, it will be done.”

For more on this, and the three papers on the subject of family-proofing policy, setting out the case for family-proofing of policy, assessing the international experience and laying out a conceptual framework for its implementation, see Family Policy: where next?