SPFB #8 Perspectives on Family Social Policy: New Labour

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  • Perspectives on Family Social Policy:                             New Labour
    • The emphasis was on all familes
    • Labour took a middle line with the debate over the nuclear family versus other forms and sought to help both within their polices.
    • "Supporting Families" 1991- a discussion document which suggest ways of providing "better services and support for parents".
    • The Green Paper (1998)
      • It included measures designed to strengthen marriage and reduce the number of marriage breakdowns by giving registrars a greater role in advising married couples, it aimed to cut teenage pregnancy and provide support for long parents to return to work and extra tax credits for families on low incomes
      • made several recommendations concerning the family
      • It puts in place the "National Family and Parenting Institute" to coordinate and publicise family service, like the greater role of health visitors, proposals to help people balance work and home life, i.e. longer maternity, parental leave for both parents etc.
    • Labour appointed a Minister for Children in 2003, and in 2006, formed the new departments of Children, Schools and Families.
      • Lewis (2007)
        • Argues that Labour have particularly taken the idea of "social investment in children" seriously and have increasingly recognised that family form are chaging
        • Lone mother have ceased to be condemned as a moral problem and threat
    • Tony Blair and the Labour government had recognised that social change had occurred and that it was not possible to follow polices that pretended that most people continued to live in conventional families
    • Labour New Deal Schemes were designed to help people find paid employment
    • One such scheme was aimed at lone parent families and in April 2001 all lone parent were required to attended on annual interview about job opportunities
    • Labour had also recognised that there are few families in the 21st century which have exclusively a male breadwinner and that mostly relies of two incomes. Labour has:
      • Lengthened maternity care from 4 weeks to nine months
      • Invested in subsidies for nursery childcare
      • Introduced the rights for parents of young children to ask for flexible working patterns form there employers
      • Almost doubled maternity pay
    • The Working Families Tax Credit tops up the wages of parents moving from benefits to low paid jobs
    • One of Labours stated ways to take all children out of poverty which involved various benefits e.g. Child Benefit has been increased by 26% in real terms between 1997-2001.
    • According to the Children's Secretary Ed Balls, Labour had lifted some 600,000 children out of poverty
    • However, the number of children living poor families rose for the first ties in 6 years in 2005-2006 by 200,000 to 3.8 million (Guardian 2007)
    • However, this explicit family policy has attracted criticism that it is undermining family privacy and that Labour has constructed a "nanny state", which it interferes in personal living  arrangements
    • Furthermore, despite these innovations, the government is still accused of conforming to family ideology, in that the policy emphasis is still overwhelming on motherhood rather than on parenting in general or fatherhood, as seen in the limited rights of fathers to take paid paternity leave
    • Criticisms of Family Ideology
      • Other sociologists have argued that family ideology has lead to the nuclear family being over-idealised. It fails to acknowledge that divorce and one-parent families might be "lesser evils" than domestic violence and emotional unhappiness
      • Feminists like Oakley suggest that family ideology is very patriarchal ideology and a way of men dominating women which is  then reinforced through socialisation
      • The view that the family is a private institution had led to the general neglect of severe problems, such as child abuse and domestic violence
    • Criticisms of New Labour
      • There is a general claim that policy emphasises motherhood rather than parenting or fatherhood
      • Some have argued that we have returned to a "nanny  state" and the family is now again too reliant on the state


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