Blog | What does family-friendly Britain look like?
Policy team | 18 Aug
The Family and Childcare Trust was happy to hear David Cameron pledge that all new policy be subject to a family friendly test. The announcement was made this morning at an event which our Chief Executive Anand Shukla, also spoke at. The family friendly test was welcome news, as it is something that the Family and Childcare Trust has argued for over many years.
Much has been achieved in recent years towards making this country family friendly. Paid parental leave has been extended to nine months and almost all of this can now be shared between mothers and fathers. All employees now have the right to ask for flexible working. In 1990 there were just 5,000 places in after-school clubs today there are over 350,000. Early education has been transformed, with almost all children now receiving free part-time nursery education.
But there are areas of public policy that have not been penetrated by family friendly arguments. Transport policy is one area that needs to be examined. Part-time work is a common strategy in families with young children, yet a parent who works for three days a week pays the same for a season ticket as someone who works full-time. The Family and Childcare Trust is among the organisations that supports the Campaign for Better Transport’s call for a part-time season ticket.
Housing policy also needs to be family friendly. There is still a shortage of family-sized affordable housing, although the proportions of three bedroom homes being built has increased since 2011.
In 2013 one in five families were private renters, compared with one in ten families in 2007. Six months is the de facto length of a tenancy agreement for private renters and some families are forced to move home when their tenancy expires. Over the last five years we have seen increased residential mobility among families in the private rental sector, with children sometimes forced to move schools as a result. The Family and Childcare Trust supports a longer ‘family tenancy’ to stop unwanted disruption to children’s lives.
Immigration policy sometimes divides families. Asylum-seekers granted discretionary leave to remain cannot bring their family to the UK. Today, anyone who wants to bring a spouse or fiancé(e) into the UK has to earn more than £18,600; before 2012 all that was required was that a partner have no recourse to public funds. This ruling affects all ethnic groups, but disproportionally affects workers on low incomes.
Families are the bedrock of our society. Stress and family breakdown costs money to the public purse in many different ways. Supporting families makes economic sense, as well as helping overall wellbeing. The Ministry of Defence is one government department that has recognised the importance to service personnel of a secure family life. It affects how the armed forces perform on the battlefield, as well as decisions about remaining in the military. An acknowledgement of the importance of these relationships has meant that support for armed forces families has improved greatly in recent years.
This autumn the Family and Childcare Trust will be re-launching its Family Report Card to identify future priorities for our work and to examine progress towards a family friendly Britain. Over the next few months more details will emerge about how the family friendly test proposed by government will work. We’ll be sharing our own research with government to make sure that no policy areas are forgotten, and to make sure that we really do become a more family friendly nation.
Head of Policy and Research