Headlines: November 6th, 1998

The Government has begun a major and controversial process of consultation over future policies to promote the well-being of family life.The Consultation Document “Supporting Families” offers a comprehensive package of practical programmes designed to help families provide children with greater stability.

The Consultation Document places importance on the family unit and aims to support it by offering advice and support for families, including a new national parent helpline and an expanded role for health visitors.

It also focusses on balancing work and home priorities through family-friendly policies, and tackles problems such as domestic violence, truancy and school age pregnancy.

Home Secretary Jack Straw tackled head-on the Government’s fear that the media might point out to family failings among ministers. He said: “Let me make crystal clear that this document is not about lecturing people about how they should live their lives, or nagging them about how to bring up their children. It is no part of Government or ministers’ role to interfere in people’s family lives or in adult personal relationships.

“However, the evidence shows that families do want help and support.”

Health Minister John Hutton outlined what family-friendly policies meant in practice in the Health Department.

He said: “There are in this country about 55,000 children who are cared for by local authorities. The recently launched Quality Protects programme, aims to transform local authority children’s social services and ensure that local authorities provide the sort of care to children that any good responsible parent would be able to give.

“Elsewhere in the Department of Health, we are making sure that NHS management pursues family-friendly employment policies so that it is easier for nurses and other staff to reconcile family responsibilities.”

The Consultation period will end on 31 January 1999, copies are available from The Stationery Office.