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Family debate continues - children and parenting

The political debate about the family has continued apace. Labour has now published its Green Paper on the family and the Department for Children, Schools, and Families is running a consultation process. Christians on the Left should take part in the debate. Ed Balls, the Secretary of State, will be debating what difference the election will make to the family in CSM’s Tawney Dialogue this year.

In our feature article for CSM’s latest magazine, The Common Good, Jayne Buchanan and I argued that Labour needs to rediscover the family and not be afraid of talking about it. That includes talking about marriage – which can be done in a way which is inclusive and that recognises that many people are in different situations and make different choices. What the Party cannot do however is to somehow avoid talking about marriage, for fear of insulting someone. Most people in the country manage to celebrate marriages (eg attend weddings) without causing or taking offence. The Conservative Party’s suggestion that it wants to reintroduce a marriage tax allowance has been shown to be ill-thought through. Nevertheless, some in the churches are attracted by the notion when they first hear about it. So there are electoral advantages for Labour in addressing this issue face on.

But we must be clear too that when Christians on the Left talk about the family they are not simply talking about marriage. That’s why, in the article, we focused on family stability. For various reasons, sometimes families are unable to stay together. That’s not something to get judgemental about. For policy-makers, it is a fact of life. The focus on family stability still applies however, and in particular we need to focus on the children involved.

One welcome development in the policy debates has been the recognition that the role of fathers, as well as mothers, is important. There may be ways we can make it easier for both parents to remain involved. We could also look at providing more support for parents. I spoke to Jon Davies, director of Families Need Fathers. He told me that 'As an ex teacher and Sure Start Manager I am sure there just isn't enough parenting to go round. With 25% of all children being brought up in separated families we need to make sure that whatever happens to adult relationships the children can retain the love and support of all their relatives post divorce or separation.’

It seems to me that this should be a clear, practical aim for the Labour Party, and the Christian Socialist Movement.


This article was first published on the Christian Socialist Movement website.

Christian Socialist Movement, 3 February 2010, 03/02/2010

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