The Wars of the Rosettes

When people are asked “what is the most important thing in life?”, one answer leaves others far behind: a happy family life.

In terms of what is being offered in the main four parties’ (according to the latest polls) manifestos on issues of most relevance to this and to your charity:

(in order of publishing):

– The Lib Dems propose extending paternity pay, tackling the family court backlog and review and reform of the CMS

– The Conservatives plan to expand Pathfinder, continue the mediation voucher scheme, expand free childcare and Family Hubs and to “crack-down” on non-payment of child maintenance

– For Labour, we could find no direct reference and await the detail

– Reform propose a special division of the Family Court to deal with child maintenance and defaults,  shared parental care of 50/50 where appropriate and rights of access for grandparents.

Of course, Parliament cannot pass a law saying that families should be happy. But most things that governments do have an effect in this area. Other countries, for example France, have a requirement that whenever a new law or proposal is made, it should be accompanied by a ‘family impact statement’. Mostly, sadly, this is about the economic impact, but it can also be about domestic stability and parenting.

Yes, for politicians it is a minefield. It seems intrusive on a ‘private’ area, not the business of government. They don’t want to seem to preach. This is especially dangerous given the personal conduct of many of them.

The issues are divisive within political parties, which fear being portrayed as disunited. The electoral arithmetic is also complicated. There are no cheap points, no easy votes, to be had.

But we hope that once the issue of getting into power is over, that attention might turn, in a responsible and informed way, to what improvements can be made.

-A stable and happy domestic life is the best basis for children. Many of the things that make this harder are under state control. However, parental separation has, wretchedly, become so common that it is nearly normal. With that comes the need for damage limitation. The most important of these is enabling children to retain bonds that benefit them even if the parents live apart.

-There are probably 4 million children prevented from seeing their ‘second parent’ (mainly their fathers) as much as they would like. They could become a fifth of the electorate. There are, we think, 1.5 million parents excluded from the lives of their children. For some this dominates their lives.

The polarisation of sex/gender roles in the family has gone. They are becoming more and more symmetrical. A balance between paid work and family responsibilities is sought by an increasing majority of both men and women. Public policy needs to catch up, particularly, for your charity, if parents cannot live together.

We hope that, once the hubbub is done, and whoever wins, the Government will address these problems in a responsible and informed way.

One urgent need is to preserve the clause, inserted in 2014 (and for which your charity was responsible) in the Children Act 1989, that it be presumed, unless contrary evidence is shown, that children will benefit from the involvement of both their parents. This is under attack.

Indeed, we would like to see this strengthened by a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting.

This will be one amongst many detailed issues in which we will promote child welfare.