I am writing this before the vote on potential action over Syria on Wednesday – I have commented elsewhere on that subject, so for this column I want to discuss another issue.
Back in the Summer, when I had been your MP for just a few weeks, I was one of just 20 MPs drawn out of a hat to present a Private Members Bill. And today (4th December) is the day I get to do just that!
I am bringing forward The Assessment of Government Policies (Impact on Families) Bill. My objective is to introduce a family perspective to the policy making process. This Bill would ensure that Ministers recognise family relationships in the process of developing policy and legislative proposals.
Let’s be clear, being drawn at number 20 in this ballot means there is little chance of this bill becoming law, but that does not mean it’s not worth fighting for, and all the time I am your MP I will speak up for the family. This is part of that story.
As the Prime Minister has said: “Whether it’s tackling crime and anti-social behaviour or debt and drug addiction; whether it’s dealing with welfare dependency or improving educational outcomes – whatever the social issue we want to grasp – the answer should always begin with the family.”
Research suggests we are world leaders in family breakdown and the research around the effects of family stability and life chances couldn’t be more compelling. According to a recent report a child of separated parents is on average, among other things, more likely to:
∑ Have behavioural issues and report more depressive symptoms;
∑ Gain fewer educational qualifications and under-perform at school, before leaving education at an earlier stage;
∑ Require more medical treatment;
∑ Become sexually active, pregnant or a parent at an early age; and
As a mother myself I feel passionately about strong families being the heart of a strong society.
In my previous role as a teacher, I have seen first-hand where family breakdown can cause life-lasting disadvantage. It’s been said, “championing the family is not for the feint-hearted’’ but if a step change in this area of policy will not only benefit the public purse, but much more importantly, the life chances of all, and especially the most vulnerable, could there a more worthy calling? As a mother, I suggest not.