All government policies must pass ‘family test’ before becoming law

Now departments must ask whether proposed reforms or changes to the law support family life

Whitehall Editor

All government policies will have to pass a “family” test before they become law, under plans by David Cameron to appeal to Tory traditionalists ahead of the next election.

The Prime Minister will use a speech today to admit that parents and children are too often overlooked and sometimes left worse off by government reforms.

He will also announce that, from October, all government departments will have to assess the impact of policy on “supporting family life”.

The assessment will sit alongside similar current tests for cost-effectiveness, equality and the environment, and Mr Cameron stressed that if they failed, they would “not be allowed to proceed”.

The Prime Minister also announced that state funding for relationship counselling will be doubled to £19.5m and that the government programme that focuses on turning round the most disadvantaged families would be extended.

Video: David Cameron - Nothing matters but family

“For someone from my political viewpoint who believes in building a stronger society from the bottom up, there is no better place to start than with family,” Mr Cameron is expected to say. “I want every government department to be held to account for the impact of their policies on the family.”

Mr Cameron will add that in the past, the “reality” had been that the family hadn’t been central to “the way government thinks”.

“So you get a whole load of policy decisions that take no account of the family and sometimes make these things worse – whether it’s the benefits system incentivising couples to live apart, or penalising those who go out to work, or excessive bureaucracy preventing loving couples from adopting children with no family at all.”

The speech comes as the Government also prepares to launch a major extension of its programme to tackle troubled families, set up by Mr Cameron after the riots in London and other English cities in 2011.

Up to 500,000 families are due to be targeted – more than four times the number in the initial stage – with work due to begin first in the 50 local authorities whose work has so far proved most successful.

The head of the programme, Louise Casey, said at the weekend that the families concerned were “off the barometer in the number of problems they have”.

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