I am proud to be a ‘Family Champion’ alongside over 60 other Conservative Members of Parliament. Families are the bedrock of a healthy society and their stability and the support that any government can give them is absolutely crucial. A Conservative Government has just been elected with a large majority and part of the manifesto on which it was elected was to champion families. After three years of paralysis in Parliament, we have at long last left the European Union and can now deal with the issues that are really important to most people.
I was delighted that this government recognised in its manifesto that ‘a strong society needs strong families’ and committed to improving the Troubled Families programme and Family Hubs to strengthen families and family values. It is absolutely essential that in this Parliament family breakdown is prioritised as one of the biggest, and most under recognised, social problems facing us today.
Last week I met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of the upcoming Budget to support my colleague Fiona Bruce MP in her calls for increased support for Family Hubs. During this meeting it was highlighted that at least 2.3 million children are living in families with significant risk factors such as domestic violence, poor parental mental health or alcohol or substance abuse, all of which have been shown to have a substantial impact on a child’s prospects.
Family Hubs would provide all areas of specialist support in one place, from mental health services to childcare and employment support. This single point of contact provides a gateway to establishing constructive engagement with families, creating a better family environment and therefore improving children’s long-term prospects. There are currently around half a dozen such Hubs across the UK from Rochdale to Chelmsford to the Isle of White, but there need to be many more, and as a Family Champion I will be working to have one set up in my constituency of Southend West.
Strengthening families cuts across every part of government and all departments are impacted by family breakdown. Family policy plays an important role in tackling big societal issues such as crime, social mobility and welfare dependence, and as such requires a coordinated approach. It has been shown that those who grow up in a strong, stable and positive family environment go on to live happier and healthier adult lives, with well-functioning families making a considerable contribution to our society. It is essential that we remove the stigma around asking for family support and ensure that help is easily accessible so that families can seek out early guidance when they are experiencing difficulties in their relationships.
I will continue to work alongside my fellow Family Champions to make sure that this Parliament prioritises strengthening families across the UK, ensuring integrated family support is at the heart of the Government’s wider policies for social reform. We must ensure that the Government delivers on its bold commitment to make Britain the greatest place in the world to start a family.