Report calls for a family revolution

Families are being weakened and undermined by a system that is prejudiced and works against them, rather than for them, according to the Family Commission.

Families are being weakened and undermined by a system that is prejudiced and works against them, rather than for them, according to the Family Commission.

The 18-month inquiry into family life chaired by Esther Rantzen today said that families were wasted assets which Britain has never needed more. The Family Commission is now releasing a new blueprint calling for an overhaul in every aspect of our lives to get behind families and help them to flourish.

The report draws on the views of 10,000 families across Britain. It says that despite warm words from politicians about the importance of families, good intentions are not translating from Whitehall to the village hall. The report argues that families need to be put first, and sets out challenges for the legal profession and local councils as well as all as individuals to improve the lot of families.

‘Starting a Family Revolution’ says families are worried about their children’s future; cuts to vital public services and their family finances. In a survey carried out by The Commission:

– 24% said that concerns about their children’s future keeps them awake at night
– 60% said they feared cuts to schools
– 24% feared cuts to Sure Start Children’s Centres
– 69% said financial hardship was the biggest strain on family relationships
– 47% say they want more help and advice when things go wrong
– 49% see extended family members just twice a year or less frequently
– 30% see extended family members either once a year or less frequently

 However, it found that families around the country are highly resourceful when faced with the daily challenges of work, relationships and family responsibilities. The report calls for families to be recognised as a crucial resource in the tough times ahead and reports that families want public money spent in a way that provides better support, particularly as children grow up, and to prevent problems escalating into a crisis.

The report highlights how families find public services over-bureaucratic and inflexible; how families have to jump through hoops and fall through cracks before getting the help they need; how the reality of modern family life is misunderstood by services and professionals. Families have told The Commission that too often the state is either ‘on our backs or nowhere to be seen’.

 The Family Commission is challenging the Prime Minister directly to apply a new ‘Family Test’ across all areas of his Government to ensure that policies and decisions strengthen, rather than weaken families.

In order to release the potential in families The Commission challenges the Government, Local Authorities, the family courts, professionals, schools and families themselves to put families at the centre of everything we do.

The Family Commission wants:

A ‘Family Test’ across Government
Introducing a ‘Family Test’ to ensure that Government policies and decisions strengthen, rather than weaken families. The impact on families will be thoroughly considered when cuts are planned. Bureaucracy and processes will be reviewed and simplified to make them accessible to families. Professionals will work alongside families, recognising they often know what is best for their family.

Help and support for families as children grow up – all Children’s Centres extending their support to become Children and Family Centres
Making the most of the millions spent on Sure Start Children’s Centres by extending the support they provide to all families with children from pregnancy to 19 years – rather than the current focus on under 5s. Involving and supporting parents and the extended family as children grow up.

Help for families to shape their own solutions – Family Group Conferences
Families can resolve more of their own problems, particularly if our society harnesses the resources in extended families. Every family should have a legal entitlement to a Family Group Conference – a meeting which brings together the extended family – when concerns are raised about a family or the children are at risk to produce an action plan for the extended family to help resolve the crisis.

Help to resolve crisis and prevent children being taken into care – with more Family Intervention Projects
These programmes of intense intervention demonstrate success and significant savings on the public purse. The Commission believes strongly that Family Intervention Programmes should be made available to all families whose children are at risk of being taken into care.

A kinship approach – even when separation occurs
Extended family members will be the first choice when parents cannot look after their children; siblings will be kept together or close-by when in care; prisoner’s families will be helped to stay in touch; grandparents will be recognised as a vital resource.

 Esther Rantzen, Chair of The Family Commission said: “Today the Family Commission is calling for a family revolution because we know that as a country we are ignoring a huge asset during these difficult times – families. With more practical help and support for families we are convinced we can reduce the number of families in crisis; get more children off to a good start in life; and improve the quality of life in communities. Families can be the foundation stone of the Big Society but only if they are recognised as an asset and not a burden.”

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