19/08/2014 10:00 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 06:12 BST

Prime Minister David Cameron Says Every Government Policy Will Be Put To The 'Family Test'

Joan llado/Alamy
The British Prime Minister David Cameron on holiday in a beach in Mallorca with family.

Splendid news! Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, has suddenly realised that families are really important.

What's that, you say? An election next year? Don't be so cynical.

No - Cameron has seen the light. He's admitted that parents and children are often overlooked and even left worse off by Government reforms.

From now on, (well, from October) all Government departments will have to assess the impact of policies on 'supporting family life'.

Er. Hang on a minute. Just what exactly are these Government reforms FOR, if they haven't been for the benefit of parents and children? We're ALL parents, or children, or both, at one point or another. And, why has it taken Cameron four years to realise this?

But never mind. From October, at least up until the election next May, Government policies will be rigorously assessed to make sure they support family life.

But who will they be assessed by? Iain Duncan Smith, that's who. The former party leader who was so dismal they replaced him with Michael Howard, who famously had 'something of the night about him'.

Iain Duncan Smith, who more recently, as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has overseen welfare reform that has included taking benefits away from disabled people, Kafkaesque JobCentre sanctions and the introduction of the bedroom tax.

It's a bit mean, really, giving IDS the job, given that most of the policies he has overseen have been damaging to families. Changes to the benefit system, according to Donald Hirsch of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, mean that families who work full time can end up with less than if they worked part time. If one partner works, the benefit system means there's no point in the other getting a job.

Changing disability benefits into personal independence payments have delayed hundreds of thousands of assessments.

And the JRF has recently found that the bedroom tax had, apart from anything else, failed to deliver the savings expected.

So I'm sure IDS will do a bang-up job in charge of the 'family test impact assessment'.

That's not all the good news, though. Cameron has also conceded that perhaps not all single parent families are the work of the devil.

So he says: "There are some cases where it is better for parents to split up." He also praises 'inspirational single parents'. It's an indictment of previous politician finger-wagging that this statement is actually seen as some kind of breakthrough.

But Cameron still really, really wants us to try very hard to stay together. So there's a doubling of the budget for relationship counselling, which is nice, and to be welcomed.

But. He also wants to look at the extra benefits which are paid to single parents. Those benefits are apparently unfair on couples and penalise those who stay together. Hmm.


​I'm sure lots of families make the heart-breakingly difficult decision to split up so they can access the glorious bounty of single parent benefits.


Then there's the renewed focus on the 500,000 'troubled families', which apparently are costing the nation £30 billion a year. Lumping together those who live in poverty and unemployment with those who are disruptive and antisocial, without making any distinction between the two. Still, at least the Troubled Families programme is trying to help families with problems. I just wish they wouldn't call it the Troubled Families programme. The trouble is poverty.

The most cringe-worthy, teeth-grinding moments of Cameron's speech today, though, came when he decided to offer us a few useful parenting tips.

Apparently, being a parent means 'use of the word No' – and using the 'off switch' on the TV.

Pearls of wisdom, I'm sure you'll agree. The trouble with saying something like this is, the parents who DO say 'No' often to their children think 'What a patronising twit' and those who don't say 'No' often to their children think 'Who is he to tell me what to do?' Either way, you lose. It's really difficult to pretend to be 'one of us' when you're not.

But at least he admits: "I know that I am far from the perfect father and husband. And I'll never pretend otherwise." And he says he doesn't want to judge others.

Cameron insisted today: "For me, nothing matters more than family. It's at the centre of my life and the heart of my politics."

It's a nice philosophy. And he is making some of the right noises. The sticking point is, he doesn't seem to really understand what 'family' means, or what ordinary families need. If only he really did have everyone's families at the heart of his politics, then we might be getting somewhere.

David Cameron: 'Nothing Matters More Than Family'

What do you think? What about some genuine family friendly policies?

More on Parentdish: Austerity measures are 'failing children on a grand scale'