Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary

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1 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary

2 1 Introduction There has never been a more important time for the Government to support families and family relationships. Rapid social and technological changes have brought families unprecedented opportunities and freedom of choice, as well as challenges in terms of responsibility and restraint. And, the tough financial times mean some families are under acute economic stress, which can put pressures on family relationships. We have published a Green Paper, Support for All, to respond to the reality of family life today; to set out what we are already doing; what more we intend to do; and to seek views on how best to support families and family relationships. This booklet is a summary of the Green Paper. You can view the full Paper at Strong families give children love, identity, a personal history and a secure base from which to explore and enjoy life as they grow up. And families are where most of us find the support and care necessary for a happy and fulfilling life as children and adults, parents and grandparents too. Marriage is an important and well-established institution that plays a fundamental role in family life in our society. However, marriage is a personal and private decision for responsible adults, with which politicians should not interfere. The Government supports couples who choose to get married: for many families marriage offers the best environment in which to raise children, and remains the choice of the majority of people in Britain. But families come in all shapes and sizes these days and the evidence is clear that stable and loving relationships between adults in the home parents, grandparents and other caring adults and with their children are vital for their progress and wellbeing. The Government is therefore strongly committed to supporting all parents, grandparents and carers in sustaining strong and resilient relationships.

3 2 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary The Government believes it is also important this is pursued in ways that are evidence-based and that fit with the reality of family life today. This means, for example, recognising the greater roles many fathers and other family members, including grandparents, play in caring for children. The sheer diversity of family life now also means that one size fits all approaches are unlikely to be successful. Instead, giving families access to information, advice and support of various kinds that they can use as and when they think best is much more likely to be effective. Over the last 12 years, the Government has introduced new legislation, developed groundbreaking new policies for children and families, and has invested very significant public funds in improving support for them. For example, leave entitlements for parents around the birth of a child have been brought in for the first time in some respects and significantly enhanced in others; many more families can now access high-quality childcare; the network of Sure Start Children s Centres, taken together with the extended schools programme, means the local service infrastructure for children and families is now much stronger than 12 years ago; and the Every Child Matters programme has been embraced and developed in every area in the country. It will be important to maximise the positive impact of investment in policy and services by paying careful attention both to what families say they want and need, and to what the evidence shows is most effective in helping them and their children. Among other things this suggests that extra help should be directed towards families at times when there is additional pressure on family relationships, such as around the time of the birth of a child. And, while all families should receive some support, it should be targeted at those who need it most. The Government recognises that family life is private and that families bring up children not governments. Therefore, the Green Paper focuses on supporting family relationships by enabling families to help themselves. The proposals in the Paper also aim to influence positively factors that can strengthen or weaken family life such as the choices available about balancing employment with bringing up children and how welcoming and accessible public services are to families of all kinds.

4 3 Support for families in bringing up children Good parenting is crucial for children and can help them to overcome disadvantages. Good parenting happens in all sorts of families and policy needs to reflect this diversity, helping all children to have the best. Policies and services also need to respond sensitively to the needs of all family members as it s not only parents who are important for children. They should be based on the principles of helping families to sustain good relationships and directing extra support to the children and families in greatest need. A wide range of support is already available to help families raise their children, from pre-birth, through childhood and adolescence, and beyond.

5 4 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary What more we will do: set out what families can expect from key services at crucial stages in life during pregnancy and birth of a child, in the period up to a child s fifth birthday, and from the age of 5 19 years; support plans by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) to produce professional guidance for their members on how best to engage fathers around the birth of their child; introduce a new Dads Guide with practical and legal advice to be included in every Bounty pack that each new mother receives; extend the offer of key worker support to families with disabled children across the 0 19 age range; offer more help to parents of teenagers, including by introducing a new free parenting booklet, which will be written by independent experts and parents, and through increasing the accessibility of online information for families of teenagers; commissioning free materials to help parents guide their children and help them deal with commercial messages transmitted via both old and new media; and strengthening support for family and friends carers by: consulting on a new statutory guidance framework and revised National Minimum Standards for fostering service providers; producing a support pack for relatives caring for children because of a parent s drug or alcohol misuse; and exploring with stakeholders the difficulties experienced by family and friends carers and how to help them to access the support they need.

6 5 Building strong family relationships and dealing with relationship pressures and breakdown The Government s aims are to help young people to understand why strong, respectful relationships are important, and to support them in acquiring the skills necessary to build them; to help families of all kinds to sustain strong relationships, particularly those facing additional adversity; and, where families cannot stay together, to help them and their children through the process of breakdown and family transition.

7 6 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary What more we will do: publish for consultation new Sex and Relationship Education guidance for schools with information for parents about what is taught; fund specialist relationship counselling services for families with disabled children; commission independent experts to produce additional free materials online for couples who are worried about their relationship and want to know what they can do to restore it; establish a high-level steering group of experts to work with the Government to take the key messages from research and help shape the delivery of the relationship support proposals set out in the Green Paper; produce free materials to help children experiencing family breakdown; pilot Parenting Together Apart sessions for separating parents; launch a comprehensive review into the future of the family justice system, to report jointly to the Secretaries of State for Justice and for Children, Schools and Families and the Welsh Assembly Government during 2011; promote mediation online and explore other means of reaching families with mediation information earlier; improve the information for grandparents in seeking to maintain their relationships with their grandchildren after parental separation and divorce; and remove the requirement for grandparents to obtain the leave of the court before making an application for a contact order and consulting on how far this acts as a barrier for other family members.

8 7 Family relationships and employment Employment is essential for a decent family income. For working parents and carers a trade-off is needed between employment and spending time with their family. High-quality childcare, services and flexible working opportunities for parents and carers can help to square this circle. It is not the Government s role to prescribe what a good work-life balance is. Each family is different and best placed to decide what is right for them. However, Government does have an enabling role helping to extend the choices that families are able to make. This supports family relationships as well as benefiting our economy.

9 8 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary What more we will do: consult, later this year, on the notice period for the two-week paternity leave period (currently fathers have to give notice that they want to take up this entitlement at least 15 weeks before the baby is due). explore the barriers to taking paternity leave faced by fathers not eligible for paternity pay, and examine the merits of introducing a paternity allowance; consult on whether parents should be able to take parental leave when their children are older than five years old; launch an online eligibility checker to give parents a much clearer picture of the types of financial assistance they may be entitled to for their childcare; encourage all Sure Start Children s Centres to offer a walking bus service to help families with children in different settings operating to different timescales, thereby increasing the hours when parents can potentially work; help families to reclaim more childcare costs for children over eight through tax credits, by supporting providers to register voluntarily with Ofsted; ask the Standing Commission for Carers, the Government s Expert Advisory Group, to explore the challenges facing inter-generational and distance carers during 2010; promote awareness among employers and employees of family-friendly employment rights and good practice including publishing a new guide to familyfriendly working, aimed at parents, and available through Direct.gov and other channels;

10 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary 9 publish in the spring, in partnership with BT, a Think Fathers business case; and later, make available through Business Links a comprehensive business case for familyfriendly employment generally; and consider how Tax Credits support Service families and explore what more could be done.

11 10 Building family-friendly services Services have an important role in supporting families and good family relationships. Key to this is making sure they are welcoming not just to mothers and fathers but also to grandparents and all family members who may play a significant role in a child s life. For a wide variety of reasons some children, young people and families need more help than others and it is important they get the right kind of support at the right time. Professionals in adult services, for example those working in drug or mental health services, need to be alert to the implications of their clients problems for other family members, especially the children. This is the aim of the Government s Think Family initiative.

12 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary 11 What more we will do: take steps to ensure Children s Centres are exemplars for other local services in how to make services accessible and welcoming to all family members; work with the Family and Parenting Institute to develop an approach to help organisations providing services become more family-friendly; support the consultation launched by Kids in Museums to identify how well family tickets meet the needs of families attending museums and galleries; significantly enhance the Parent Know How service to provide more help and information to other family members renaming it Family Information Direct; Improve the training for professionals working with families by: upgrading the training on engaging with families for people working with children; exploring the principles of involving parents in training; examining ways of mainstreaming training on relationship support into the professional development of frontline staff, particularly those who work with parents before and after the birth of a child; commit funding to March 2012 so the lessons from England s only Family Drug and Alcohol Court can be fully drawn out and shared; ensure every local authority will be able to offer an intensive family intervention service for families with the most complex needs; establish a national training programme for family intervention key workers; and consult on the measures that need to be in place so that families receive an assessment for family and parenting support in some defined situations when they may need help.

13 12 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary Consultation questions We would like to hear your views to help us meet the needs of families today and support strong family relationships. While bringing up children is tremendously rewarding, it can also bring major challenges to relationships between parents and between parents and their children. Most people need help at some point or other, but some parents tell us they consider asking for help an admission of failure, and so do not seek help until the issue reaches crisis point. 1. What more can we do to help create a culture in which seeking help for relationship or parenting problems, or other family difficulties, is considered socially acceptable?

14 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary 13 Families have a powerful influence on their children; the security, love and care that strong families provide have a significant impact on all family members physical and mental wellbeing. Strong families also make strong communities. But equally, family relationships are private, and the Green Paper focuses on supporting relationships indirectly, by supporting families to help themselves. The customer experience families get from services is crucial in determining how they feel about them, and whether they are willing to return, especially with services that potentially carry some stigma. Services should be welcoming and accessible for all families, and be inclusive for all family members. 2. Which issues should be prioritised by Government in seeking to strengthen families and support family relationships? 3. Which services need the most urgent development to make them truly family-friendly?

15 14 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary The Government believes that there are steps that can be taken to improve outcomes for families involved in the family justice system, and has announced a comprehensive review of the family justice system. The Government is committed to improving the take-up of family mediation. Mediation in family cases can improve outcomes for children by reducing hostility and conflict between parents, but few separating couples participate in mediation, with only 13,500 of the 50,000 couples referred annually taking up the offer to mediate. 4. Do you consider that compulsory mediation assessment would improve the take-up of mediation in family law cases, and what more could be done to improve the take up of family mediation as an alternative to court action?

16 Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper Summary 15 At present, grandparents who wish to obtain a contact order in respect of their grandchildren have to seek the leave of the court before doing so. The Government intends to remove the requirement for grandparents, but is interested in views as to how far this acts as a barrier for other family members, particularly step-family members. Parents and families want access to highquality information and support that they know they can trust, without being told what to do by Government. The Government has broadened and renamed Parent Know How so it provides more information for other family members, particularly grandparents. The Government is interested in views on whether this approach should be further expanded. 5. How far does the need to seek leave of court act as a barrier to preventing family members applying for contact with a child? Is there a need to remove this requirement for some other family members, beyond grandparents? (Note: Parents are already exempt.) 6. Would a comprehensive advice service on family issues based on successful models like NHS Direct and the NHS Carers Direct service make it easier for families to find the help they need? This could consist of a national online service coupled with a single telephone number.

17 16 How to have your say Full details about our analysis and proposals are detailed in the Support for All: the Families and Relationships Green Paper, which is available to read on our website. You can respond to the consultation by ing or writing to us. Online consultation: Support for All: The Families and Relationships Green Paper consultation team Department for Children, Schools and Families Ground Floor B, Castle View House East Lane Runcorn WA7 2GJ You can also find out more information about our programme to support families Family Information Direct at

18 You can download this publication at Search using ref: DCSF You can also download this publication at D16(8593)/0210 Crown copyright 2010 The text in this document (excluding the Royal Arms and other departmental or agency logos) may be reproduced free of charge in any format or medium providing it is reproduced accurately and not used in a misleading context. The material must be acknowledged as Crown copyright and the title of the document specified. Where we have identified any third party copyright material you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned. For any other use of this material please contact the Office of Public Sector Information, Information Policy Team, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU or

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