THE BLOG

How Would the Government Score on the 'Family Test'? C-?

19/08/2014 12:01 BST | Updated 18/10/2014 10:59 BST

The prime minister yesterday pledged to introduce a new "family test" to ensure that every domestic policy is examined for its impact on the family.

If David Cameron was to implement the policy retrospectively, how would the coalition government fare?

Here are ten starters on a rating of A+ (outstanding) to D- (failing families):

Housing D Britain is in a housing crisis with a massive lack of affordable homes to buy and rent. It's forcing young people to continue living in the family home and there is a growing number of multi-generational households where three or more generations live under the same roof. Lack of housing options for older people is also a big barrier to downsizing that could release family-sized homes.

Care C- the government has attempted to rationalise the law re care, but the reality is that almost one million older people are not getting the help they need while many others now have to pay for their own care. In research undertaken by Good Care Guide, the TripAdvisor style website for the care industry, it was revealed that more than a third (34%) of people in the UK believe that the state should be held responsible for paying for the care of the nation's elderly. However, these people are left wanting and family carers are doing much more without getting any extra help.

Childcare C tax breaks are being introduced on childcare from autumn 2015 but they will mainly benefit higher earners and may push up childcare costs even more. More than 600 children's centres have already closed and many others are like ghost ships. While there has been a baby boom in recent years, the total number of childcare places has fallen and other research from Good Care Guide has found that a significant 49% of parents have found it difficult to find childcare in their area. In particular there is a big shortfall of free childcare places for two year olds from September. And many parents will know during the long summer holidays that out of school and holiday childcare is not widely available and costs more and more.

Children B- education has been a priority for the government but is increasingly fragmented. Adoption has also been pushed but what about foster care and in particular supporting kinship care where grandparents and other family members provide care for children?

Grandparents B a nod towards older voters has meant more recognition of grandparents and their key role in families, together with some help for those who are working and caring. But grandparents still are the unsung heroes, particularly during the school holidays.

Work C more parents are in work but often they are under-employed in part-time work and pay has not kept pace with inflation putting more pressure on family budgets. Work is becoming more family friendly but the impact is still limited. Women (who are also mothers or carers) have borne the brunt of public spending cuts, axed jobs and pay freezes.

Health C- cuts in health services from mental health to hospitals and GPs are having a big impact on families. Difficulty accessing health care increases the strain on family carers.

Benefits D families that are not working or are on low pay have been hit hardest by the government as benefits have been squeezed or cut completely, with more to come.

Loneliness B much has been done to raise awareness of this social issue and some encouragement to families, neighbours and charities to do more. But increasing numbers of older people face the prospect of isolation in old age.

Technology C families have had some help regarding internet safety but the digitally excluded are increasingly missing out on government support.

Overall score C-

As well as introducing the family test, the Prime Minister should update the government's approach to family policy. For too long, family policy in this country has focused almost exclusively on parents with children. It has ignored the wider or extended family - the relatives from grandparents and increasingly great-grandparents to uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews who provide care and support for each other but could also do much more. Too often, for example, local authorities don't look to the family first when a child is taken into care. Similarly, family carers looking after an elderly relative often do so without any support.

We need a family policy that considers family members of all ages and recognises the growing number of multigenerational households in Britain; that looks seriously at the role played by everyone in the family, and their relationships and responsibilities.