Today, Christian Guy of the Centre for Social Justice closes our week on family policy with a six-point plan – following pieces on this site by David Burrowes, Samantha Callan, Graham Allen and myself. ConservativeHome understands that, in his new role, Oliver Letwin is taking an interest in the subject.
This itself needs a bit of explaining, but was summed up recently by John Rentoul, who wrote that Letwin is now “probably the most powerful person in the Government after the Prime Minister and Chancellor”. Now elevated to full Cabinet membership as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Letwin is a member of 13 of the 14 Cabinet committees, chairs of three of them – including the widest-ranging, the Home Affairs Committee, previously chaired by Nick Clegg – and sits on nine of the ten of Downing Street’s new Implementation Taskforces. This machinery-of-government detail cloaks the main political point, which is that Letwin is now Number Ten’s Implementer-In-Chief.
At any rate, he apparently believes that the Government needs to develop “a suite” of policies for families. He will not be starting with a blank sheet of paper. There are already policies on – for example – childcare, transferring the tax allowance, and relationship support (the budget for which was doubled last year).
There is also a “Family Test” for policy, which is overseen by the Department of Work and Pensions – and seeks to ensure that all Government initiatives are family-friendly. Burrowes is pressing for family impact assessments to be published alongside legislation, and other MPs with an enthusiasm for the policy area include Jeremy Lefroy and Fiona Bruce – who recently raised it at the weekly meeting of the 1922 Committee. There is also Andrea Leadsom, now a Minister at Climate Change, who has a special interest in attachment, and Tim Loughton, the former Education Minister who led on families policy in opposition. It is a long list.
Lord Freud announced a family stability review pre-election, on which the DWP is in the lead. Iain Duncan Smith chairs the Cabinet’s Social Justice Committee and has a special interest. I suspect that new initiatives will be concentrated on early years, and will build on the relationship support work that the Government is already funding. Christian writes today about converting Children’s Centres to Family Hubs, also a model championed by 4Children: some are already up and running.