Assessment of Government Policies (Impact on Families) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:17 pm on 4 December 2015.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) 2:17, 4 December 2015

I thank my hon. Friend Caroline Ansell for her interest in the family test and welcome the focus that the Bill puts on that test and on family stability, both of which are key priorities for the Department and the Government both now and in the future. Although I welcome the spirit in which the Bill has been introduced and some of the comments that have been made, I recommend that the House opposes it for the reasons that I will set out.

Family stability is at the heart of the Government’s approach, and families are the foundations of society—not only because, as my hon. Friend highlighted, the estimated cost to Government of family breakdown is as much as £46 billion a year, but because strong and stable families can hugely improve our children’s life chances. We know that to build a stronger society we need to support families, and by focusing on the family we can create better outcomes for our children and wider society. We cannot afford to overlook the importance of the family as a basic building block in a successful and stable society.

We know that children who grow up in workless families have much lower life chances than those brought up in working families. As my hon. Friend highlighted, the Prime Minister announced the family test in August 2014, rightly citing his commitment to family stability and recognising its significance in policy development. The Department for Work and Pensions has been working across government to aid the implementation of the test. Although that cross-Whitehall approach will inevitably take time to embed, the new policy’s impact on family functioning and stability is being measured. We are starting to see its impact on early policy development, which we believe will have positive ramifications and outcomes for families in future.