But talking about families is one thing. Rethinking policies and designing services around the needs of families is something else entirely.
From more help with childcare to providing a place to turn when things go wrong, the default should be to support families in doing what most do so well. Often it is not and that must change.
Too often, politicians seem apprehensive about introducing policies specifically aimed at supporting families. Some may be concerned about being accused of creating a “nanny state,” but by failing to act we are leaving far too many families without the help they need to work, gain parenting skills, and find their way through crises. to occure.
This reluctance is so self-defeating when we know that families are one of our greatest assets.
We know that for most children, their family will be the most important influence in their lives: a source of love, guidance, and nurture.
Children who grow up in a strong family are more likely to do well in school. A strong family can be an essential component to a successful adult life.
We also know that when things go wrong for children, families are often best placed to solve the problem, if they have the right support.
It makes sense, no matter what shape or size they are, for the government to do everything possible to nurture and help families. Well-supported parents and families become more resilient to crises and have more assets to fall back on if things go wrong, as they sometimes do.
Most families need support at some point. That could be help with a new baby, advice when a child is struggling in school, or some financial assistance during difficulties.
There is no doubt that the cost of living crisis, in the wake of the Covid lockdowns, is hitting many families hard. Many are struggling with higher bills and I find parents working two jobs and still not making ends meet.
Inevitably, this tests even the strongest families.
We are also seeing the ongoing impact of the pandemic on some families: mental health issues, broken relationships, low school attendance, and worse.
Millions of children in England are growing up in families where one parent has an addiction, a serious mental health condition or where there is domestic violence.
These problems are not new, but the covid has triggered them.
Unfortunately, and all too often, vulnerable families are lost sight of. When they do not receive help and, in some cases, intensive intervention, disaster can strike.
I could tell endless horrific stories of children being manipulated and exploited by ruthless criminals, and teenagers losing their lives to knife crimes or suicide.
These families tell me they are doing the best they can, but find it impossible to get help until the crisis hits.
We are too slow to identify and respond when problems arise in families, because we do not place enough importance on the support of families to get us through difficult times.
These are tragedies for families, but we all pay the price. We spend billions addressing family crises through the education, health, child care, police and criminal justice systems. The double whammy is that it means less money to spend on helping families up front and less to improve our schools and the NHS.
We need a change in political mindset that recognizes the importance of helping families and the central role families play in a strong society.
We need government to be more ambitious in investing to save, in providing early intervention and family-focused support to avoid costly crises.
The Government has started funding Family Hubs, although not yet on the scale needed to replace the hundreds of Sure Start centers that closed in the early 2010s.
I urge them, and all political parties, to go further and faster because families tell me how vital this kind of support can be. For those looking for policies for the upcoming election, look for more help balancing work and family, support that comes together with families to address issues as they arise, and intensive help for those families who are struggling.
It’s time for our politicians to move beyond family-important platitudes and instead make unwavering commitments to make changes that truly put families first.
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