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.