Cutting relationship support funding would be folly, hitting taxpayers’ pockets

A leading family charity is urging the Chancellor to boost, not cut, relationship support services, as he prepares for his Autumn Budget next month.

There has been widespread speculation that Phillip Hammond will cut funding for relationship counselling when he outlines his plans to MPs on 22 November.

But National Family Mediation, a network of dispute resolution experts across England and Wales, has set out serious concerns to the Chancellor. The charity’s CEO, Jane Robey, has written to Mr Hammond, pointing out that the annual cost to the UK economy of family breakdown is conservatively estimated at £48 billion, representing a cost to each and every taxpayer of £1,820 a year.

In this context, she says, “Funding to help reduce the cost of family breakdown represents a shrewd investment.

“As the holder of the UK’s purse strings it would be folly for you to brush aside the effect that badly managed family breakdown has on our economy, and taxpayers’ pockets.

“The hidden costs to the public purse of family breakdown include things that often result from divorce, including:
•             Tax credits
•             Lone parent benefits
•             Housing benefit and council tax benefit
•             Emergency housing following domestic violence
•             Physical and mental health
•             Social services and care
•             Children in care
•             Police and prisons
•             Courts, legal services and legal aid
•             Child maintenance
•             Educational provision following disciplinary and behavioural issues
•             Free school meals
•             Educational maintenance allowance
•             Tertiary education drop out
•             Young people not in education, employment or training”

Disproportionate impact on women

She also draws attention a further dynamic: the gender differential: “Women in particular face huge challenges in family breakdown relating to the child’s wellbeing and their own. The average woman’s income falls by more than a fifth post-separation, remaining low for years, whilst a father’s income rises.

“Funding for counselling and marriage guidance is key if we are to limit these costs – helping pay for relationship support both to prevent divorce and, where divorce does occur, to ensure amicable and sustainable settlements through interventions such as family mediation."

She stresses that NFM doesn’t directly benefit from relationship counselling budgets. But her letter includes a request for the Chancellor “to retain and indeed increase them, rather than bow to the temptation to cut them.”

She adds: “Investment is also needed to ensure that families that have definitely decided to separate are able to reach settlements on parenting, money and property in an amicable and constructive way, which puts the futures of the children involved first. Helping these couples shape agreements is vital to everyone’s future prosperity and wellbeing, so that adults and children alike can face a settled future, and flourish.”