Iain Duncan Smith warns government over cuts to relationship counselling

The former Conservative cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith has warned that the government plans to cut support for marriage and relationship counselling.

In an article for Conservative Home, the former work and pensions secretary said his former officials had told him they had been asked to draw up plans to scrap the £10m available to help prevent couples from splitting up.

Duncan Smith warned this would be a “retrograde step” that would worsen the “damaging effects of family breakdown”.

He argued that the move was a false economy as the cost of family breakdown has been estimated to be £48bn a year. He said: “The government’s own evaluation shows that every £1 spent on relationship support saves the state £11, not to mention the improvement in life chances for those involved.”

The issue was something of a personal crusade of Duncan Smith during his time in the coalition government that he has continued in his role as founder of the Centre for Social Justice thinktank. He pointed out that in 2015 David Cameron agreed to double support for relationship counselling to £70m.

In 2014, Duncan Smith proposed free relationship counselling for new parents in order to reduce instances of family breakdown.

In his article, he said he was worried that the government was about to “head in the wrong direction” on the issue by planning cuts. He ended with a plea to ministers: “I urge my colleagues that instead of looking to reduce such investment in this budget, we should look to increase the reach of such services, for the wellbeing not just of those families directly affected but of the whole country.”

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the the relationship counselling charity Relate tweeted, that Duncan Smith’s intervention was the first sign of a Tory rebellion on the cuts.

Sherwood added: “We are aware that this is an important time in the Department for Work and Pensions’ decision-making process and we urge them to continue to fund relationship support, counselling, information and education.

“It’s all too easy to overlook the value of relationships to individuals and society, but they play a critical role in our health and wellbeing and in ensuring that children get a good start in life.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Mounting evidence shows the damaging effect parental conflict has on children, which is why we remain committed to supporting parents, whether separated or not, to work together.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Matthew Weaver, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 30th August 2017 09.41 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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