Family Test “not being applied successfully by government departments”Marriage and Family
This week the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) published a review of the Family Test, five years on from its introduction by former Prime Minister David Cameron. When it was introduced, Cameron said: : “Put simply that means every single domestic policy that government comes up with will be examined for its impact on the family.” Policies designed by the government should strengthen not weaken family life.
Letters were written to the Secretary of States in 14 Government departments about their use of the Family Test, asking about how the Test has been incorporated into policy making, how many assessments have been made and for examples that show how it is applied.
The research also found that very few departments are publishing the outcomes when the Test is applied. This lack of accountability is worrying and signals a lack of serious engagement by Civil Servants with the Family Test.
Encouragingly some departments have developed their own guidance and resources for applying the Test. The Ministry of Defence was highlighted as an example of best practice, having established a “bespoke programme” to make sure policy makers consider military families in their work.
The report also found that the lead department, the DWP, is developing a Family Test Network. The DWP stated that the purpose of this Network is: “to increase the capability of departments to use the Test by collaborating on identifying, developing and sharing effective practice. This new network will support this department in a review of the Family Test guidance and we will encourage Departments across Government to develop their own materials for policy officials, tailored to their particular policy context.”
Disappointingly a number of departments did not provide a ‘meaningful response’. The report concluded that: “it appears that there is often superficial engagement with the Test and little regard to the five component questions that comprise the Test. We are concerned that in examining responses from departments there seems to be a lack of awareness of the role of family within the policy objectives of each department.”
A number of helpful recommendations were made including that individual ministers take up responsibility in ensuring that their departments apply the Test and reject submissions that have not done so; that an expert reference group is created to make the best use of experts in family policy; and that the Government introduce a duty to record when the Test has been applied and that these statistics be regularly published.
CARE’s Family Policy Officer Jonathan Williams responded to the report:
“This welcome and timely review from the CSJ makes it clear that the Family Test is being applied selectively across Government departments. This is not good enough.
“Encouragingly a few departments seem to be taking proactive steps to ensure the Family Test is applied to policies at the right time, however the overall picture is this test is being ignored and side-lined.
“If the Government really thinks families matter it will ensure that departments are required to apply the test to all relevant policy and record that this has taken place. It should not have to take hard work by organisations like the CSJ for the public to know whether Government departments are taking families into account in their work.”
Further information on the Family Test: