Making the announcement today, the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, said that before new legislation or policy can be put to ministers or introduced to Parliament, Government departments will have to consider the impact it might have on families.
It follows on from a speech delivered by the Prime Minister David Cameron in August to introduce a ‘families test’ for all domestic Government policy.
Under the move, civil servants will need to consider a series of questions when first developing policy and legislation, including the impact it will have on families going through key transitions such as becoming parents or getting married, and the effect on those most at risk of relationship breakdown.
The questions have been drawn up in consultation with families’ groups.
All Government departments will be required to document how they’ve met the ‘families test’ and if new laws or policies help parents make choices about maternal and paternal leave that is right for them.
The news comes after the Family and Childcare Trust awarded the Government a grade C for family-friendly policies in its annual report card earlier this month.
In August the DWP confirmed £20 million for relationship support, including piloting antenatal classes in six regions with a focus on the father being involved in the child’s life.
Mr Duncan Smith said, ‘Families are the foundations of society – and we know that strong and stable families can have a huge impact on improving the life chances of our children. So in order to build a stronger society and secure Britain’s future we must ensure we support them, and the relationships on which they are built.
‘Today we are bringing this issue centre stage with a new test that will ensure every policy Government introduced is assessed for its impact on the family.
‘This is the truest representation of Government on the side of hard-working families in Britain – demonstrating a clear and unqualified commitment to strengthening and supporting family life for our children and for generations to come.’
Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said, 'This test is a very good start, and it is encouraging to see the Government recognising the importance of considering the needs of families during policy development.
'In our joint research with Netmums, families awarded the Government a grade C for its family friendliness, so there is still work to be done. Incomes of some of the poorest families have fallen. Too many parents still struggle with low pay and rising costs. Balancing work and family life in a way that suits their families is still an unattainable dream for too many parents, and childcare costs remain a major barrier to work.
'We would like to see the families test widely used and developed over time so that councils can use it as a local test in the future.'