Press release

First ever ‘families test’ for government published

All new laws or government policies will face a new ‘families test’ to make sure they support strong and stable families.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Supporting strong families is vital to help reduce the cost of social problems and build a secure economy for future generations. Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith announced the new test today (31 October 2014).

For the first time ever, the new guidance sets out 5 questions that all policy or legislation across government needs to address before it can be agreed by ministers. The guidance has been drawn up in consultation with families groups. This approach makes clear that all departments need to fully understand how government policies support strong family relationships and will allow departments to identify and take action to address any policies that could undermine them.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain 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.

Ruth Sutherland, Chair of the Relationships Alliance and Chief Executive Officer of Relate, said:

We very much welcome the implementation of the family test, which was announced at our Relationships Summit in August.

This is an important step towards putting families and relationships at the heart of public policy, something we have been campaigning passionately for. We are proud to have supported the development of the test and we look forward to seeing it in action, helping policymakers to put the interests of all families at the centre of their work.

The Prime Minister set out in August that a families test would be introduced for all domestic government policy and the guidance published today has been developed in consultation with Relationship Alliance and other families and relationships experts.

The test includes a series of questions that all civil servants will need to consider when first developing policy and legislation and before it is put to ministers or introduced to Parliament. This will ensure that family perspective is at the heart of government policy.

The 5 families test questions are:

  • What kind of impact might the policy have on family formation?

  • What kind of impact will the policy have on families going through key transitions such as becoming parents, getting married, fostering or adopting, bereavement, redundancy, new caring responsibilities or the onset of a long-term health condition?
  • What impacts will the policy have on all family members’ ability to play a full role in family life, including with respect to parenting and other caring responsibilities?

  • How does the policy impact families before, during and after couple separation?
  • How does the policy impact those families most at risk of deterioration of relationship quality and breakdown?

Strong and stable families, in all their forms, play a vitally important role in our society. All departments will need to document how they’ve met the families test and looked at new laws or policies through the prism of, for example, whether it helps parents make the choices about maternal and paternal leave that is right for them, by recognising the roles that both mothers and fathers play in raising families or respecting the vital contribution that grandparents make to family life.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will provide further guidance where needed and also check that departments are fulfilling the government’s commitment to ensuring families are thought of in all policy development.

DWP is also investing around £20 million on relationship support to ensure family stability and to reduce the risk of relationship breakdown, including piloting antenatal classes in 6 regions with a focus on the father being involved in the child’s life.

The move in relationship support comes alongside DWP’s wider commitment to families through reform of the child maintenance service, universal credit and wider support for families which has seen support provided to over 100,000 families with multiple problems.

The Relationships Alliance

The Relationships Alliance consists of:

  • Relate
  • Marriage Care
  • OnePlusOne
  • The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships

Its vision is a future in which strong and stable couple, family and social relationships form the basis of a thriving society.

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Published 31 October 2014