Family plans set out by coalition

Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 15:31 UK


Woman with child The coalition is also promising a review of family law

The coalition government has pledged to support families and maintain the goal of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020.

Plans for more health visitors and to target the Sure Start scheme for young families have been confirmed.

The coalition also confirmed plans for shared parental leave - and said free nursery provision would continue.

And it pledged to reduce, but not end, the penalties for couples in the tax system.

The joint document from the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition says that "strong and stable families of all kinds" are "the bedrock of a strong and stable society".

'Family friendly'

And that society should be more "family-friendly".

The parties say they will "take action to protect children from excessive commercialisation and premature sexualisation", including a "crackdown on irresponsible advertising".

On tax credits, the document said: "We will bring forward plans to reduce the couple penalty in the tax credit system as we make savings from our welfare reform plans."

This was a watering down of the Conservatives' manifesto pledge to "end the couple penalty for all couples in the tax credit system".

Critics say the "couple penalty" means that people are better off if they live apart, rather than living together as a couple.

Nursery places

The coalition confirmed its support for the continuation of free nursery care for pre-school children in England and said that it wanted this to be "provided by a diverse range of providers, with a greater gender balance in the early years workforce".

The Sure Start programme in England - where parents with young children are offered a range of services in centres - is going to be more focused on the neediest families, as the Conservatives had pledged in the run-up to the election.


  • "Couple penalty" in tax system to be reduced
  • Sure Start programme "more focused on neediest families"
  • 4,200 extra Sure Start health visitors
  • Goal of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020 remains
  • Promotion of a system of flexible parental leave
  • Review of family law to increase use of mediation and give greater access rights to parents and grandparents
  • Review of vetting and barring system

The coalition document says: "We will take Sure Start back to its original purpose of early intervention, increase its focus on the neediest families, and better involve organisations with a track record of supporting families.

"We will investigate ways of ensuring that providers are paid in part by the results they achieve."

Money saved from some Sure Start outreach services and from the Department of Health's budget will be used to pay for 4,200 extra Sure Start health visitors to support new parents.

That committment to providing more health visitors won strong support from the Netmums website.

Co-founder of the site Siobhan Freegard said: "It is fantastic that this pledge is there. We are really pleased to see health visitors back where they belong".

She said health visitors could often spot problems with mothers or children before they became too great.

And Sure Start centres, she said had become very popular with mums on the website.

The coalition is also pledging to "maintain the goal of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020", as the Conservatives had said in their manifesto.

It plans to review the system for checking on people who have contact with children through schools and other organisations (known as the vetting and barring scheme), saying it will scale it back to "common sense levels".

There is also a committment to encourage "shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy".

This will include the promotion of a system of flexible parental leave, the coalition document says.

This is understood to be the commitment for parents to be allowed to share maternity leave - favoured by both Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

When relationships do break down, the coalition says, couples will be given "greater encouragement" to use existing support such as counselling services.

And there would be a comprehensive review of family law "to increase the use of mediation when couples do break up, and to look at how best to provide greater access rights to non-resident parents and grandparents".