New parents are to be offered free counselling in a bid to reduce marriage breakdown and give children 'the best start in life', according to new plans by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Health visitors would be trained to 'recognise and respond to the signs of relationship difficulties', as it is hoped that couples who might otherwise be reluctant to reach out for support would be more willing to open up to a professional with whom they already have a relationship.
The scheme is part of a raft of measures devised by the Coalition government to 'help parents give their children the best start' by promoting stable relationships.
In a report published earlier this week, the Department for Work and Pensions outlined its plans to increase the support and resources available to new parents.
"Marriage rates have more than halved in the last 40 years, while the number of lone parent households increased by an average of 26,000 a year from the early 1980s to 2010," warned the DWP report.
Recognising that troubled relationships were often the product of complex issues, including 'changing demographics, and long-term economic and social trends', the report nevertheless concluded that the government 'cannot ignore the implications of family breakdown'.
"We have re-established families as a vital priority for this Government and signalled our commitment to strong and stable relationships," the report affirmed. "Through the breadth of support available we will do all we can to support sustainable and healthy parental relationships."
The report also announced that 2015 would see the trialling of a new scheme which would offer relationship support alongside antenatal classes, to encourage healthy relationships between expectant parents and to strengthen fathers' involvement in childrearing.
"For too long, family breakdown, debt, educational failure, addiction and worklessness have
been carried as intractable problems," Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan declared in his introduction to the report.
"Working together, Social Justice breaks this illusion – instilling basic concepts such as love, compassion and trust. Above all, it is underpinned by the belief that no one is beyond our reach and that no one should be written off."
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