Skip to main content

Family and Relationship Support

Volume 762: debated on Monday 22 June 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which Minister has responsibility for family and relationship support policy; and what steps they are taking to deliver the commitment in the Conservative Party Manifesto 2015 to invest at least £7.5 million a year in relationship support.

My Lords, I am the Minister responsible for family and relationship support policy. We are working with several organisations to develop and deliver provision. This includes preventive support, help for those experiencing difficulties, piloting relationship education in perinatal classes, and supporting local authorities to improve family relationships. I confirm that the total funding for this in 2015-16 is at least £7.5 million. We are currently planning how to make the most effective use of this funding.

I thank the Minister for her Answer and welcome her to her new role. The last time I counted, there were five government departments with a direct interest in family relationships: indeed, six if you count the Home Office’s interest in domestic violence. Given this fragmentation and the fact that relationship breakdown is estimated to cost the country some £46 billion per year, what mechanisms will be used at Cabinet level to ensure that family policy is co-ordinated across government, and how will each department be held to account for the family test announced by the Prime Minister last year?

I can inform the noble Baroness that the family test will be applied to all new policies that are being developed by government, and it will be strictly applied. The idea at the moment is that we transfer the Department for Education’s responsibility to the Department for Work and Pensions so that these policies are more integrated for the benefit of the families who we are trying to support.

Has the Minister considered the plight of Muslim women, who are very often home-based and therefore not likely to go out to seek advice? Are there any provisions for dealing with Muslim women in their own homes in order to counter what violence there is, which in some cases could be quite considerable?

The noble Baroness asks an important question. We are working with a number of different organisations to ensure that the relationship support that we deliver covers a whole variety of different types of relationship, including Muslim relationships and those where there is an element of domestic violence. I reassure the noble Baroness that that is being included.

At the family summit last August, the Prime Minister indicated that the budget for family relationship support would double to £19.5 million, whereas the Conservative manifesto in May merely referred to “at least £7.5 million”. Can the Minister confirm that there is a budget line in the DWP departmental expenditure limit for fiscal year 2015-16 that has at least £7.5 million in it? How long will that programme last, and is it exempt from the forthcoming budget cuts?

I can confirm for the noble Lord that the commitment to £7.5 million per annum is a firm one, and we will be spending at least that amount. The total government-wide spending for family, parenting and relationship support is approximately £6.5 billion, with a number of different programmes, including the troubled families programme, help and support for separated families, the innovation fund and, of course, childcare support. In our manifesto we have guaranteed funding for relationship provisions every year over the Parliament. We were the only party to do so.

My Lords, I welcome the Minister to what I think is her first Oral Question and I look forward to debating with her on DWP matters. The Minister mentioned the family test, which the Prime Minister announced in 2014 and that was going to be five questions that all policy or legislation across government would have to be subjected to by civil servants before Ministers would sign them off. Today’s papers are full of reports that, according to the Prime Minister, tax credits for children will bear the brunt of the £12 billion welfare cuts. Could she tell the House whether that policy has been subject to the family test and, if so, what the result was?

Clearly there is speculation in the papers about all sorts of things. I certainly cannot comment on that particular issue, but I repeat my assurance that all polices are subject to the strict family test.

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend to her new post. I want to ask about support for families in terms of advice. A recent Department for Education report tells me that each £1 spent on advice yields approximately £11.50 in savings to the taxpayer as well as adding to family stability. Could my noble friend confirm that paying for such continuing intervention will be part of the Government’s plan?

I thank my noble friend for that question. Studies have indeed suggested that the amount that we are spending yields £11.50 for each £1 spent, which is of course excellent value for money. We are continuing to rationalise some of the contracts, and have introduced a 20% payment-by-results scheme. We are ensuring that we continually monitor the effectiveness of all the policies that we have introduced under this programme and will continue with challenging stretch targets as well.

My Lords, I, too, welcome the noble Baroness to her new role. Is she prepared to confirm that the current funding will be used for the whole spectrum of relational support as well as for the valuable services targeted at the effects of family breakdown?

The whole spectrum of relationships is covered in our spending programme for relationship support, including same-sex couples and older people—a whole, wide range, as I indicated to the noble Baroness. So yes, I can confirm that.