Letter: Co-ordinated help for Nineties families

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The Independent Online
Sir: Two feature articles this week ('Welcome to The Family', 31 August; and 'Divorce is bad for you, try again', 1 September) develop some of the now-widely rehearsed arguments around marriage and divorce.

These issues deserve to be taken further. A number of your two writers' points can be developed. For example:

1. While a successful marriage today is more than ever before a partnership, it is likely to be one that involves a relationship and a network of support between the wider families as well as the couple themselves.

2. Because the present law on divorce makes the ending of a marriage a relatively straightforward business, many unhappy couples are led to assume it will be easy in other respects - despite, now, much evidence to the contrary.

3. Among this evidence is also the recognition, borne out by recent research, that children fare badly when their parents are in conflict: divorce is one manifestation of this which should not lead us to ignore the harmful effects of unhappy marriages that continue.

4. It is often modest compromises rather than radical changes that can turn an apparently hopeless marriage into one that is good enough.

The common thread is that marriage and family life in the Nineties are up against considerable odds and need all the help they can get; and for many the effects of recession lengthen the odds further.

Yet government policy on families remains uncoordinated: the Home Office is responsible for marriage, the Lord Chancellor for divorce, the Department of Health for children and Environment for the homes we live in, and there is no mechanism for bringing these interests together.

Surely the time is now right for the establishment of a ministerial standing committee, at Cabinet level, to spearhead the development of a clear, co-ordinated set of policies to sustain family life, and marriage, into the Nineties.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID FRENCH

Director, Relate

Rugby

Warwickshire

3 September

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