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On 2 November 2017, the House of Lords is due to debate a motion moved by Lord Farmer (Conservative) “that this House takes note of the impact of A Manifesto to Strengthen Families, published on 6 September 2017”.

A Manifesto to Strengthen Families: Policies for a Conservative Government to Strengthen Families was drafted by Fiona Bruce (Conservative MP for Congleton) and Lord Farmer. It is supported by 51 Conservative MPs and eight Members of the House of Lords. Taking figures from the Relationships Foundation’s Cost of Family Failure Index 2016, the manifesto contends that the financial cost of family breakdown in the UK is an estimated £48 billion, with costs contributing to lone parent benefits, and emergency housing following domestic violence, amongst others.

To tackle these issues, the manifesto makes several policy recommendations. For example, it proposes that every government department should have a minister responsible for ensuring that policies aimed at strengthening and supporting families are included in the department’s policy-making process. In addition, the manifesto promotes the role of fatherhood in strengthening families, which it argues could be achieved by expectant fathers being personally invited to antenatal appointments and fatherhood preparation classes, for example, to provide them with support at the early stages of parenthood.

The manifesto also calls on the Government to encourage every local authority to deliver family hubs, which would provide support for families with children and young people to overcome difficulties and build stronger relationships. The manifesto also proposes incentives to marriage, such as increases to the Marriage Allowance. Additionally, the manifesto considers the impact that a parent in prison can have on a child, recommending measures to make prison visiting areas more child-friendly, and the effect of mental health on a family unit, calling for an extension of the provision of couple therapy for conditions such as depression. Lastly, the manifesto places an emphasis on the role of relationship education in strengthening family units, calling on the Government to include fatherhood and marriage in relationship education curriculum.

Successive governments have introduced policies aimed at strengthening families, including measures such as the introduction of shared parental leave and the provision of free childcare and legislating for relationship education to be taught in schools. A number of these are identified in this briefing.

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