FAMILY & COMMUNITY POLICY
We are rightly concerned about family policy. It matters. But we need continually to take care with our language. When we talk of the importance of ‘family’ what ‘family’ do we have in mind? So often we sound as though family is still consistently Mum, Dad and 2.1 children when the reality with which we have to work is that family make up is so much more diverse. Some might wish it was otherwise but we are called to work with families whatever their make up, including same sex couples. We need to speak clearly about the important roles of parents and grandparents in the raising of children and the offering of a good childhood.
It is important that we are offering all children female and male role models. Girls and boys need to experience healthy examples of both.
But family policy also has to recognise the importance of the wider community in ensuring children have a good childhood. So we have to work hard on understanding what ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ looks like in UK terms.
In all of this we have to explore in what ways local church might be ‘family’.
And in what ways local church might contribute to the creation of local community.
Frank Field’s Report highlighted once again the critical importance of early years.
We have to be concerned about the impact of the proposed Benefit Cap. The Children’s Society research (12/9/11) suggests:-
More than 200,000 children to be biggest “losers” of Benefit Cap
Children will therefore be around nine times more likely than adults to be affected.
The cap will impact around 50,000 households, 95 per cent of which are estimated to have children. These families will lose an average of £93 a week – the equivalent to around double the average weekly family food bill.
- Analysis of the Government’s Equality Impact Assessment of the cap shows that these 50,000 households contain around 69,000 adults and 206,000 children – meaning that three quarters of those affected are children.
The cap could make 82,000 children homeless
To this we add the Joseph Rowntree Foundation work on Children in Relative Poverty:-
• The number of children in relative poverty is forecast to rise from 2.6 million in 2009/10 to 2.9 million in 2015/16 and 3.3 million by 2020/21 (measuring income before housing costs)
• Relative child poverty will rise from 20 per cent currently to 24 per cent by 2020/21, the highest rate since 1999/2000 and considerably higher than the 10 per cent target in the Child Poverty Act (2010).
• The proportion of children in absolute poverty (using the 2010/11 poverty line fixed in real terms) is forecast to rise to 23 per cent by 2020/21, compared with the 5 per cent target.
• The direct impact of the current government’s announced reforms to personal tax and benefit policy will be to increase relative poverty among children by 200,000 in both 2015/16 and 2020/21.
Now we have never agreed with a purely economic solution to poverty. The simple re-distribution of wealth will never suffice because people are more than their possessions; our Lord made that abundantly clear in his teaching. Yet at the same time we cannot be content with not tackling such poverty because we know it links to so many other issues, like health, life expectancy, educational opportunity etc.
So we are to be at the forefront of seeking an end to child poverty but part of our contribution must be to recognise that poverty is so much more than economic and that alongside children in real economic poverty, some of them may be socially, emotionally and spiritually rich whilst there are very wealthy children who are emotionally, socially and spiritually poor. Our commitment to the poor must embrace the full range of poverty.