The family and social policy is one of the most interesting topics on this part of the specification, yet it often gets overlooked. Here are a few notes I put together covering some of the territory - they give some useful pointers I hope and try to cover at least some of the most recent issues.
Many governments have been keen to preserve the traditional family by various measures:
? Legislation which prevents gay marriage
? Legislation on abortion – not just implications about religious views, morality, also reinforces view that children should be the product of family life.
? Legislation which can make divorce more difficult.
? Legislation which controls who has responsibility for children, who can adopt children.
? Legislation on provision of public housing. Fox-Harding – it is married couples with children who are routinely prioritized over single/parents with children.
Smart and Neale Family Fragments 1999
Legislation – see e.g. Children’s Act 1989 - has prioritized the needs of children, however, this has been done in a way which reinforces traditional family structures.
? Both biological parents should share responsibility for children
? Prioritizes ‘first’ families
? Discourages a ‘clean break’ approach
? See’s divorce as a social problem
Welfare State, Beveridge Report 1943
The Welfare state provided a lot of benefits, e.g. unemployment, health care, but it was assumed that women would not be in paid employment. Housewives are ineligible for unemployment benefit. Social policy and the state was in this example then, suggesting that in ‘normal’ families, women should stay at home and look after their children and their husband.
However, since 1940s there has been much change:
More women working
More single parent families
More dual income families
Fewer children, but more old people – therefore considerable potential care needs.
Child Support Agency (CSA)1993
A strategy devised by a Conservative government, but continued by Labour.
It aims to ensure that the natural parents of children continue to provide financial support for their children, even if the biological parents separate or divorce.
This is intended to reduce the burden of financial support on the state, and force parents to accept responsibility.
Again, this policy helps to support the idea that the nuclear family is the best way to live; and it reinforces the view that the biological parents are the key people responsible for children – nothing wrong with that, but there are alternative possibilities.
Also, it provides a strong incentive for people to think twice about divorce or separation –or perhaps even marriage (??) since they know that they will be expected to take responsibility for any children they have.
The CSA has been widely criticised for its inefficiency. It has also been criticised by many men (e.g. Fathers for Justice) because they believe they are unfairly treated.
Working Families Tax Credit 1997
Aimed to encourage more families – especially women – to get back into work as well as bring up young children. The idea was that people would get tax relief against childcare costs incurred by going to work – thus making it worthwhile for families on low wages to consider going back to work.
Child Tax Credit 2003
A policy which provides families where both partners are in paid employment but on low pay, with tax relief on money paid for childcare.