New feature: What is a family friendly government?

// 3 October 2011

When David Cameron promised to form a family-friendly government, you may have got the impression he was talking about a particular and narrow type of domestic arrangement. But Milena Popova imagines how policy would change if support for all families was put at the heart of decision-making

In January 2010, before he came to power, David Cameron expressed an ambition for his government “to be the most family friendly government we’ve ever had in this country”. Since Cameron became Prime Minister, we have seen the scrapping of child benefit for higher rate tax payers, a number of changes in benefits and taxation and the scrapping of plans to extend further the right to request flexible working arrangements, among other measures which significantly disadvantage families.

At the same time, the only thing stopping the introduction of tax breaks for married couples is the presence of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition government. It is telling that when Conservative Home talks about Britain having the most ‘anti-family’ tax system in Europe it bases this on a definition of family as “a one earner married couple with two children”. More recently the Prime Minister has been telling us how we should wait to have children until we’re all middle class.

Choice is a favourite word of this government. It is the mantra of choice which is relentlessly driving the privatisation of the NHS and the education system, it is the ethos of choice which gets rolled out when someone questions why we are spending tax payers’ money on homeopathic treatments not proven to work. So how is this government enabling our choices when it comes to our families? What does a family-friendly society really look like in the 21st century?

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