CAROLINE ANSELL: Greater ties are needed with the family

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell outside Houses of Parliament SUS-150722-141636001
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell outside Houses of Parliament SUS-150722-141636001

One of the key reasons I am involved in politics is because of my belief in - and commitment to - the family.

I have written in this column before on this subject, and am returning to it today following my attendance recently at an event which served as a useful reminder that my heart really lies in this particular area of policy.

Whether you look at outcomes for children, physical and mental health, productivity at work or even criminal justice – central to all of them is the role of the family, and strong, stable relationships in particular.

I was pleased to attend the Relate Lecture last week, where the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, gave a keynote speech on the importance of family and relationships and his commitment to strengthening them.

At the event Relate launched their new report, All Together Now, which sets out an ambitious vision for relationship support over the next ten years.

I can’t recall a Government before this one whose senior cabinet members were so committed to this important area of work, demonstrated through policies like increased funding for relationship support, shared parental leave and even, when things go wrong, increased support for separating couples. The commitment is clear through plans to strengthen relationships through all touch points with public services – whether that’s children’s services, mental health support, prisons or education.

This recognition of the role of local government to support families and relationships is extremely welcome, and is something I raised in my own Private Members Bill on the Family Test before Christmas.

The Family Test is the impact assessment that all Government policies must be submitted to, and I – alongside a broad coalition of MPs and experts in the family and relationships sector – have been calling for it to be both made statutory and applied at a local level.

I also continue to call for the Family Test to be given ‘teeth’, so that all departments have to both use it and publish their results.

This government is doing some fantastic work to support families and relationships, I want the Family Test to be a tool to evidence that impact, as well as to highlight the areas where adjustments to other areas of policy could bring significant benefits for families.

As always, I’d love to hear you views, and you can contact me on