THE BLOG

No Child's Life Should Be Defined By Their Family's Circumstances

11/04/2017 17:02 BST | Updated 11/04/2017 17:02 BST
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Fairness is something we learn about from a young age. We're taught to share with our peers and siblings, to take turns and support one another. Children often react strongly if one of their classmates is given an unfair advantage over the others in a maths test or a running race, for instance.

But some face a more fundamental unfairness, a disadvantage which means that, regardless of how talented they are and how hard they work, they are less likely to succeed in life. I am referring to children who grow up in workless families, with all the associated problems that can bring.

This week the Department for Work and Pensions published analysis on the range of disadvantages workless families face, including conflict between parents, drug and alcohol dependency, or mental health problems. While the first job of this department is to do everything we can to support people into work, we know that wider issues like these can prevent families from getting on with their lives, leaving children without the stability they need.

The complex problems that some families have are often about more than money. For example, our new analysis shows that parents are three times more likely to experience relationship problems if they are workless, compared with parents who both work. For the children of these parents - whether they are together or separated - being exposed to persistent, unresolved conflict can have a negative effect on their development. An estimated 300,000 workless families are potentially affected by conflict between parents and the children are at risk of being held back in their education and in later life.

No child should be defined by their family's circumstances.

That's why we have announced an innovative £30million programme to help parents in disadvantaged families who constantly argue, or perhaps don't even speak to one another at all.

Our programme will help those parents who are struggling to resolve their differences and give their children more stability.

Specialist local organisations will give couples support that's proven to work. To make sure those organisations can reach those who could benefit from this programme, we're also giving frontline staff more training to spot mothers and fathers who need help, so they can offer support before things get worse. So different services will work together, along with Jobcentre Plus, to support families with a range of problems that are linked to long-term unemployment.

By helping parents to reduce conflict in their relationships, we can help them create a more supportive and stable family environment, making a real difference to the lives and outcomes of their children.

Caroline Nokes is the Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, and minister for welfare delivery