More on the Local Family Offer programme by Dean Wilson

Between 2015-17 the Department for Work and Pensions has given 12 local authorities across the UK access to expert support from Innovation Unit and OnePlusOne, and funding in the development of local family offers. These new offers specifically focus on improving the quality of couple or co-parenting relationships, leading to better outcomes for children.

For each of the 12 local authorities, we collected a wide range of publicly available data, comparing it to the national average via visual representation. This meant that the individual authorities were able to the see stark differences in their local priorities and in how their families fare compared to other local authorities up and down the country. Through visualising this data local authorities identified which factor was most significant for them, and subsequently presented the biggest opportunity to intervene early with those families at risk of poor quality relationships.

Newcastle City Council’s newly developed offer will work with families who live in the most deprived wards in the city, are going through a significant transition (in this instance the birth of a new child), and for whom there is a history of social and emotional difficulties — all significant risk factors that affect the quality and stability of relationships.

Through identifying these families early and providing a range of interventions that are aimed at increasing the resilience of the relationship in the face of stress, the team hope to reduce the likelihood of those family members experiencing mental ill health, violence or break down further down the line.

Croydon Council have identified their most significant relationship risk factor - the high numbers of families who are at risk of financial instability. Their hypothesis is that by working with those families at the point at which they come forward for help with their financial difficulties (to the council’s Gateway team) they can build the resilience of the couple relationship, protecting the family against the stress associated with financial instability. Their plans are based on working with staff in the council’s Gateway service to help them ask potentially sensitive questions about the quality of a family's relationships, and to make sure the family is signposted to relevant early help services.


Implications for family policy

The Local Family Offer programme has only started to scratch the surface of what might be achieved through embracing and working with the evidence about relationships. For Newcastle and Croydon the job is now to think about how they work with those families they have identified to build the quality of their relationships.

It will also require both central and local government to recognise some of the barriers in existing family support systems that make it so hard for professionals and others to focus on relationships. For example:

  • Family stability and the quality of adult relationships are rarely recognised as significant in service outcomes and objectives, or at least the ones that Local Authorities are held accountable to. Where they are present, resource constraints, capacity issues, a cultural aversion to risk and practical barriers to joined-up working mean that services tend to fall back on a more narrow set of priority outcomes.
     
  • Solving inherently relational problems in families requires relational interventions that themselves rely on high quality relationships. In other words the quality of the relationship between a professional and a family is key to driving change. But despite their best efforts, it is difficult for professionals to build meaningful relationships with families when their time is so squeezed.
     
  • The signs of relationship difficulties are most likely to manifest in universal services. For example GPs, teachers, health visitors, midwives or indeed the police are often the first port of call for people who are having relationship issues. But often these professionals are neither willing nor able to spot the signs, or ask the difficult questions that might uncover them. At the same time, if they did identify a risk factor, the organisational and departmental silos in which many professionals operate make it very difficult for them to use this intelligence productively.
     
  • The depth and the quality of the evidence base in terms of interventions that support the quality of parenting relationships is limited. By demanding that all commissioned interventions demonstrate high levels of robust evidence, commissioners make it more difficult for themselves to commission relationship support, and risk undermining the huge potential for innovation.

What can Local Authorities do? They can be brave in confronting the evidence around the importance of relationships, and use it to invest strategically in early intervention and prevention with families. They can work with families to build their social and support networks, recognising their importance to the long term resilience of relationships. They can organise services such that professionals have the time and support they need to build trusted relationships with families. They can lead partners (including health and the police) in defining a set of shared outcomes that recognise the importance of relationships to child outcomes. This is everyone’s opportunity.

 

Authors: Jonny Mallinson (Innovation Unit) and Jan Mitcheson (OnePlusOne)

Relationship Realities by Dean Wilson

Relationship Realities is a collection of real stories by real people affected by alcohol and drug use problems, produced by charities OnePlusOne and Adfam. If you are struggling with alcohol and drug use problems or have family members and partners who are, we hope these stories will show you that you’re not alone.

When you’ve listened to the stories, please let us know what you think by answering a few short questions below. We will also enter you into our prize draw for a £20 Amazon voucher.

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I understand how substance misuse can impact on my relationship
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Relational Capability – the stuff of life by Mark Weber

OnePlusOne’s Relational Capability Framework

How can we enable people to build the kinds of relationships that make a positive difference to their lives and the lives of those with whom they interact? We have been seeking answers to this question for over forty years, through our unique and wide-ranging research and innovation projects. We believe that developing people’s relational capability – enhancing their ability to establish and sustain relationships – brings us one step closer to an answer.

The relational capability framework encapsulates what it takes to make and maintain cohesive and harmonious relationships. On the one hand it reflects what we bring to the table, our relational skills, beliefs, and behaviours, and how they combine to shape the quality of interactions we have. This is our ‘internal relational capability’. On the other hand, ‘relational opportunity’ recognises that the circumstances of our lives or the settings in which we find ourselves also influence if and how we engage in healthy relationships.

What does that mean in practice?

OnePlusOne does much to apply this relationship framework in practice. We train front-line practitioners in relational capability, and provide online interventions to strengthen couple and family relationships, including behavioural modelling training. We also support separated parents to manage their interactions in ways that promote the wellbeing of their children, and this has all added up to an understanding of how to help people improve their relational experiences, often by making small changes to how they interact.

We are embarking on a series of projects trialling approaches to building relational capability in different settings – enhancing the internal relational capability of practitioners, employers, teachers, and addressing some of the system level barriers to exercising that capability. We are starting that work with an early years service in a local authority and with a group of employers, but looking ahead we are keen to explore what developing relationally capable schools might look like, or neighbourhoods, or care services for the elderly, to name but a few.

If you would like to learn more about relational capability, or discuss our work further, please contact OnePlusOne Director Penny Mansfield CBE: penny.mansfield@oneplusone.org.uk

Research & Policy Digest by Mark Weber

OnePlusOne’s monthly roundup of the key research and policy news to emerge from the field of relationships, including the latest journal articles of interest to family and relationships practitioners and researchers.

Research and statistics

Foundations for Life: What Works to Support Parent Child Interaction in the Early Years
Early Intervention Foundation

Foundations for Life: What Works to Support Parent Child Interaction in the Early Years” is an assessment by the Early Intervention Foundation of 75 early intervention programmes aimed at improving child outcomes through positive parent child interactions in the early years. This report has assessed programmes available to UK commissioners, rather than considering programmes from around the world.  This is also the first time that EIF have used their own robust methods for rating the evidence and costs of early intervention programmes.

Falling short: the experiences of families below the Minimum Income Standard
Joseph Rowntree Foundation

More than one in three families in the UK now have incomes below the Minimum Income Standard (MIS), a benchmark based on what the public agrees a household needs as a minimum to live on. Their incomes are reckoned to be too low to allow the choices and opportunities required to participate fully in society. This report considers how families need stability, but this is undermined by irregular employment and hours. It also considers changes in benefits and tax credits, insecurity in private rented housing and how the stress of trying to keep on top of finances is emotionally draining and often causes parents to prioritise meeting their children’s needs and sacrifice their own. This study comprised in-depth interviews with 30 families on low incomes. A mix of lone parents and couples, in and out of work, were interviewed.

Running randomised controlled trials in innovation, entrepreneurship and growth
Nesta

This introductory guide from Nesta has been created to help policy-makers, researchers and practitioners in the field of innovation, entrepreneurship and growth understand why, when and how to do a randomised controlled trial (RCT). It aims to enable readers to acquire the basic knowledge needed to understand RCTs, to understand what type of trial is best suited to address your research questions, to understand some of the challenges that may be facedin the implementation stage, and to equip you with knowledge on how to best approach analysis and reporting of RCTs.

Population estimates by marital status and living arrangements, England and Wales: 2002 to 2015
ONS

This statistical bulletin from the Office of National Statistics presents population estimates by legal marital status and cohabitation status by age and sex for England and Wales from 2002 to 2015. Figures show that there were 23.8 million people who were married in 2015, which was 50.6% of the population aged 16 and over. However, marriage rates have steadily declined since 2002, which could be associated with a rise in cohabiting amongst those who have never married or formed a civil partnership.

Policy and practice

Including Fathers
Family Nurse Partnership National Unit

This blog from the Family Nurse Partnership National Unit looks at what health practitioners do to engage, work with and support fathers. It also touches on relevant research and what it says about the importance of fathers in a child’s life. In this case father may refer to a biological father and/or step father/father figure.

Tuning into the sexual histories and lives of older adults
Gov.uk blog

This gov.uk guest blog is from Dr Paul Willis, senior lecturer in social work with adults in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol. This blog outlines how sex and sexuality are difficult topics to discuss with service users and carers, and even more so with older adults. Dr Willis’ research and recommendations concern attitudes and approaches to the sexual health and wellbeing of older adults.

Best start in life: Promoting good emotional wellbeing and mental health for children and young people
Local Government Association

Children and young people’s mental health services and social care can help to pick up the pieces when things go wrong. But it is councils and their partners who can play a lead role in trying to ensure problems don’t develop in the first place. This briefing from the Local Government Association contains examples of councils that are looking at innovative ways to provide support with a focus on children and families rather than static services, as well as more information about the scale of the problem and what steps can be taken.

Journal articles

The effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions in the perinatal period: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
Lever Taylor et al. (2016). PLOSone.

Nonmarital First Births, Marriage, and Income Inequality.
Cherlin et al. (2016). American Sociological Review.

Child Adjustment in Joint Physical Custody Versus Sole Custody: A Meta-Analytic Review.
Baude et al. (2016). Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.

Promoting Coparenting After Divorce: A Relational Perspective on Child Custody Evaluations in Italy.
Ranieri et al. (2016). Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.

Conceptualizations of Divorced Fathers and Interventions to Support Involvement.
Troilo (2016). Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.

The effect of daily challenges in children with autism on parents’ couple problem-solving interactions.
Hartley et al. (2016). Journal of Family Psychology.

Parenting Stress Among Low-Income and Working-Class Fathers: The Role of Employment.
Nomaguchi and Johnson (2016). Journal of Family Issues.

The green-eyed monster: Mate value, relational uncertainty, and jealousy in romantic relationships.
Redlick (2016). Personal Relationships.

Romantic and dating behaviors among single parents in the United States.
Gray et al. (2016). Personal Relationships.

The impact of couple therapy on service utilization among military veterans: The moderating roles of pretreatment service utilization and premature termination.
Madsen et al. (2016). Family Process.

Why we chose to stay together: Qualitative interviews with separated couples who chose to reconcile.
Pearce Plauche et al. (2016). Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.

Abilities in romantic relationships and well-being among emerging adults.
Weisskirch (2016). Marriage and Family Review.

Spousal conflict resolution strategies and marital relations in late adulthood.
Kulik et al. (2016). Personal Relationships.

Is marriage a buzzkill? A twin study of marital status and alcohol consumption.
Dinescu et al. (2016). Journal of Family Psychology.

Illuminating the context and circumstances of male couples establishing a sexual agreement in their relationship.
Mitchell et al. (2016). American Journal of Men’s Health.

The rested relationship: Sleep benefits marital evaluations.
Maranges and McNulty (2016). Journal of Family Psychology.

Couples Therapy for Intimate Partner Violence: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Karakurt et al. (2016). Journal of Martial and Family Therapy.

At-home father families in the united states: Gender ideology, human capital, and unemployment.
Kramer and Kramer (2016). Journal of Marriage and Family. 

Ideas about childbearing among childless men.
Jensen (2016). Families, Relationships and Societies. 

The experience of co-residence: young adults returning to the parental home after graduation in England.
Lewis et al. (2016). Families, Relationships and Societies. 

From roaring on the hilltop to weeping by the bedside: protector personas of fathers raising children with autism spectrum disorder.
Lashewicz et al. (2016). Families, Relationships and Societies.

Tough love: The behavior control justice motive facilitates forgiveness in valued relationships.
Strelan et al. (2016). Personal Relationships.

Shifting expectations of partners’ responsiveness changes outcomes of conflict discussions.
Marigold and Anderson (2016). Personal Relationships.

Relationship satisfaction of the previously married: The significance of relationship specific costs and rewards in first and repartnering unions.
Ivanova (2016). Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 

Dyadic perspectives on marital quality and loneliness in later life.
Moorman (2016). Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

“It’s not just words coming from the mouth”: The nature of compassionate love among older couples.
Sabey et al. (2016). Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Spouse cancer caregivers’ burden and distress at entry to home hospice: The role of relationship quality.
Reblin et al. (2016). Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Young adult females’ relationship work and its links to romantic functioning and stability over time.
Jensen and Rauer (2016). Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

First-time parents’ prenatal needs for early parenthood preparation-A systematic review and meta-synthesis of qualitative literature.
Enstsieh and Hallstrom (2016). Midwifery.

Child behavior problems: Mothers’ and fathers’ mental health matters today and tomorrow.
Vallotton et al. (2016). Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Gender-typed behavior over time in children with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents.
Goldberg et al. (2016). Journal of Family Psychology.

Why still marry? The role of feelings in the persistence of marriage as an institution.
Billari and Liefbroer (2016). The British Journal of Sociology.

Gay guys using gay language: friendship, shared values and the intent-context-effect matrix.
McCormack et al. (2016). The British Journal of Sociology.

Qualities of knowledge brokers: Reflections from practice.
Phipps and Morton (2016). The Policy Press.

Women’s maternal experiences in Canadian stepfamilies: An exploratory study.
Gosselin and Gosselin (2016). Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.

Understanding single mothers’ parenting stress trajectories.
Berryhill and Durtschi (2016). Marriage and Family Review.

Midwifery-led antenatal care models: mapping a systematic review to an evidence-based quality framework to identify key components and characteristics of care.
Symon et al. (2016). Implementation Science.

The use and value of digital media for information about pregnancy and early motherhood: a focus group study.
Lupton (2016). Implementation Science.

Health behavior among men with multiple family roles: the moderating effects of perceived partner relationship quality.
De Pasquale et al. (2016). American Journal of Men’s Health.

Emotional mechanisms linking incivility at work to aggression and withdrawal at home: An experience-sampling study.
Lim et al. (2016). Journal of Management.

The aftermath of divorce: Postdivorce adjustment strategies of South Asian, Black, and White women in the United States.
Lawson and Satti (2016). Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.

Associations between prior deployments and marital satisfaction among army couples.
Karney and Trail (2016). Journal of Marriage and Family.

Social network typologies of black and white married couples in midlife.
Fiori et al. (2016). Journal of Marriage and Family.

Intimately connected: The importance of partner responsiveness for experiencing sexual desire.
Birnbaum et al. (2016). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Relationships and ridiculous jumpers: surviving Christmas with your loved ones by Mark Weber

Relationship research charity OnePlusOne has some top tips for maintaining the peace and goodwill at Christmas.

For many families, this is the one time of year when everybody comes together to eat, drink and be merry.

But when so many different characters are together in one place, it’s almost inevitable that there will be a row or two. And just the thought of arguments can cause couples to feel anxious about visiting each other’s families during the festive season.

Here are some top tips for couples at Christmas:

Dealing with the parents

You may be looking forward to spending time with your parents – your partner may be feeling stressed out about it. Likewise, you might find the thought of Christmas with the in-laws nerve wracking.

Prepare yourselves and talk to each other about what a typical Christmas with the family is like; the way your mum and you partner’s mum do things will probably be different.

Take a moment to call or email each other’s parents to see if they need help with the big day. Both your parents and the in-laws will appreciate the gesture and by communicating, stronger ties can be built between families.

If your parents are hosting, the thought of having an extra mouth to feed can be enough to get them flustered. Factor in any dietary requirements your partner may have and years of Christmas tradition can suddenly go out the window.

This can be a big shock to your parents’ systems – and their bank accounts! While you might be used to them paying for everything, it’s a good idea to offer to contribute. Why not get the turkey this year? Or simply split the cost of the food evenly between the adults?

Dealing with the kids

 For most kids, Christmas is about one thing and one thing only: presents. But the anticipation that builds up to the ceremonial unwrapping can lead to tears and tantrums.

Try spreading gift-giving across the day. After the presents have been opened and they’ve had a chance to play with everything, kids can get bored and start causing mischief. By handing gifts out throughout the day you can keep the excitement going and, hopefully, ensure good behaviour.

If the kids do misbehave, it’s unfair for you or your partner to be left to do the disciplining alone. Neither of you want to look like Scrooge. Show a united front and discuss in advance how you plan on dealing with bad behaviour.

Your first Christmas as a couple 

The first Christmas as a couple can be wonderfully romantic – everything’s new and there are opportunities to start your own traditions together. But having never spent this special time of year together before, it’s important to make sure you’re on the same wavelength.

The secret to a successful first Christmas is communication. Your partner’s not a mind-reader, and neither are you, so talk about what you both want from the festive season.

Christmas is often considered family time, and in the early days one or both of you may not feel ready to spend the day away from your relatives. Discuss how you would like to spend it – together or apart – in advance so you have time to make your own arrangements if necessary.

Don’t be offended if your partner is keen to stick with their family on Christmas day – for lots of people it’s a big step to spend Christmas day with their other half. Many only choose to do this once they’re married or have children.

Remember there are 12 days of Christmas. If you can’t spend the day itself together, why not plan your own romantic celebration on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, or do something to make New Year’s Eve particularly special instead?

Why ‘D-day’ doesn’t necessarily end in divorce by Mark Weber

Relationship research charity OnePlusOne is doing its bit to challenge the New Year narrative around the claim that the first day back at work is ‘divorce day’.

January is perceived to be the most popular time of year to file for divorce. The theory goes something like this: the longed for break from work can suddenly feel like being under house arrest, minor issues become magnified, too much booze leads to loosened tongues which can lead to rows and the first working day of the year will see a queue outside the local solicitors of enraged spouses who will file for divorce then and there.

January is the most popular time of year to enquire about divorce but it’s not the most popular time of year to file for divorce – OnePlusOne’s research team have found no statistics or evidence to back up the claim that there are more divorces in January than at any other time of the year. What is true is that January sees more web searches for ‘divorce’ and related terms, such as ‘counselling’, and legal firms will see a spike in enquiries about divorce and separation processes.

It’s no surprise that many couples fall out during the festive season – if your relationship is unsatisfactory and you’ve had a tricky time of it over Christmas, the thought of facing more of the same in New Year can lead to a sense of hopelessness. It’s a time of reflection and if you’re reflecting on the theme of “what can I do to make things different”, looking at the options around separation might seem like a good idea.

But there are other options. Recognising that you’re unhappy in a relationship offers you the opportunity to change things. Seeking help when thoughts of separation first creep in can be hugely helpful in resolving problems and makes the prospect of separating less likely.

OnePlusOne provides free online support to couples who want help to overcome relationship issues and stay together. We advise those who are thinking of separating from their partner to visit our Couple Connection web site – http://thecoupleconnection.net/ – and find out more about the DIY courses and support on offer, which can help people address their problems and improve their relationships.

In the event that separation is unavoidable, OnePlusOne can also sign-post people to resources to help minimise conflict. And, of course, the number one consideration for most parents is what’s best for their children. Help is at hand from OnePlusOne’s Parent Connection online service – it’s free, available 24/7 and offers reliable information and support. The courses and parenting plan provided have helped thousands of people who are trying to work out a way of parenting after parting that minimises the negative impact of a separation or divorce on their children.

The Children and Families Bill – Queen’s speech 2012 by Mark Weber

The Children and Families Bill was announced in this months Queen’s speech. Below is a summary of the main proposals including those affecting parental separation and shared care.

Content of the Bill

The Bill intends to make it easier for parents to share caring responsibilities; give families of children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities more choice and control; and support some of the most vulnerable children, including those in care or whose parents have separated.

One of the key aims of the Bill is to provide a much simpler system of education, health and social care for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Recognising that parents of children with additional needs face many challenges when their child needs extra support in their education, and even more so when their child has social care and health needs. The proposed legislation would ensure that education; health and social care services are jointly planned and commissioned by local authorities and health services working together.

It would also include proposals for local authorities to set out a local offer of all services available to support children or young people who are disabled or who have SEN, and their families across education, health and social care.

The adoption clauses in the Bill would seek to reduce the time children have to wait for an adoptive placement and see more children placed with families with less delay and disruption.

The Bill says that new legislation would prevent local authorities from delaying an adoption by searching for a “perfect match” for a child, particularly a perfect or partial match based on the child’s ethnicity.

With regard to family law, although going to court to resolve disputes about children should be the last resort, the proposed legislative changes in this Bill make clear that parents should work together to reach agreements about their child’s care when they separate. It would also set out that, where it is safe and in the best interests of the child, both parents should be involved with their child’s upbringing as fully as possible.

The Government will be consulting shortly on how the legislation can be framed to ensure that a meaningful relationship is not about an equal division of time but the quality of time that a child spends with each parent.  The changes being planned on public law will mean a care proceedings system in which delay is no longer acceptable and where there is a much clearer focus on the child and their needs.

Through proposals on flexible parental leave the Bill seeks to give parents more choice and flexibility about how they share the care of their child in the first year, enabling both parents to retain a strong link with the labour market. By extending the right to request flexible working it is hoped that all employees will have the confidence to ask their employer for flexible working without fear of detrimental treatment.

John Dunford’s review of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner stated that there was a continuing need for an independent advocate for children and young people, but that the existing legislative framework was limiting the Commissioner from fulfilling that role effectively. Therefore it is proposed that there be a change to the function of the Children’s Commissioner to one of “promoting and protecting children’s rights”, enabling the UK to meet better its obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Timing

The Bill will be scheduled for introduction in the second session in the Commons, early in 2013. It would then be carried over into the third session for Royal Assent.

Consultation

All of the proposals in the Bill have already been informed by the views and experience of families and those who work with them.

Through the special educational needs and disability green paper, the consultation on theFamily Justice Reviewproposals and the Dunford Review.

There will be a full public consultation on the proposals on adoption, and calls for evidence as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process for the proposals in the Bill.

The Civil Partnership Act by Mark Weber

OnePlusOne exists to strengthen relationships and share knowledge and information about the changing nature of relationships. Over our 40 years we have seen many big cultural changes in both couple relationships and family formation.

Cohabiting, now the norm, used to be termed ‘living in sin’, divorce has lost much of its stigma, and step families are the largest growing family type.

As marriage rates have declined, people have found new ways to celebrate commitment and being a family – from publicly renewing their vows with friends to baby naming days rather than traditional christenings.

One of the most significant changes of the last decade has been the Civil Partnership Act.

The act came into effect on 5th December 2005, allowing same sex couples to have legal recognition of their relationship. Gay couples could have the new legal status of “Civil Partners”, instead of the traditional husband and wife status.

This move was met with some controversy; religious groups spoke out against civil partnerships, and some heterosexual couples in cohabiting relationships argued that they do not receive the same rights as ‘married’ same sex couples.

However the Civil Partnership Act proved very popular; over 18,000 couples took the plunge between December 2005 and the end of December 2006. A further 8,728 civil partnership ceremonies then took place during 2007.

The number of civil partnerships between same-sex couples has leveled off since these initial high levels of uptake with around 6,000 ceremonies now taking place year on year since 2007.

Why introduce Equal Civil Marriage?  Differences between Civil Partnerships and Civil Marriages

Although a civil partnership is essentially seen as a “gay marriage”, there are some key differences.

  • A civil marriage almost always contains religious aspects during the ceremony- the word marriage is a religious word in itself.
  • A member of the clergy can perform civil marriages, whereas only specified registrars can perform a civil partnership.

But there are also similarities between the two.

  • In both a civil partnership and a civil marriage, couples are required to give public notice of their intentions.
  • The records of both are kept as official and public documents with the registry offices.

The key facts on the equal civil marriage consultation.

In 2011 the ban on civil partnerships taking place on religious premises was lifted. The government then went on to launch its consultation on Equal Civil Marriage this March looking at how to enable same sex couples to have a civil marriage.

This will run till June 14th and only look at civil marriage ceremonies that are held in either registry offices or other approved premises, not in churches.

The government states they are taking this move because they want to promote greater choice. Recognising that the commitment of same sex couples in a civil partnership is the same as the commitment made by heterosexual couples in a civil marriage hence it makes no sense to ban same sex couples from getting married through a civil ceremony.

Despite negative press and confusion, this is not about undermining or changing religious marriage – a religious ceremony on religious premises will continue only tobe legally possible between a man and a woman. Civil partnerships will remain as being for same sex couples only.

OnePlusOne would encourage as broad a range of parties as possible to respond to the consultation, so the debate is not one between the media, faith groups and gay community alone.

The equal civil marriage consultation has now concluded, but to read the official response and report click here.

Key Facts on Equal Marriage by Mark Weber

The equal marriage debate has been complex and heated; after a period of consultation new legislation has recently been announced. This will take effect in 2015.

Here are the key facts:

  • The government have proposed that the Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from performing equal marriage ceremonies.
  • Under new ruling other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to holding wedding ceremonies.
  • Because the Church of England and Church in Wales have “explicitly stated” strong opposition to offering same-sex weddings, the government have said they will be excluded.
  • Minister for Equality Maria Miller has issued a statement saying: “I am absolutely clear that no religious organisation will ever be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples, and I would not bring in a bill which would allow that. European law already puts religious freedoms beyond doubt, and we will go even further by bringing in an additional ‘quadruple legal lock’. But it is also a key aspect of religious freedom that those bodies who want to opt in should be able to do so.”
  • Plans to allow equal marriages are supported by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
  • Anglican Churches are excluded because Ministers had already stated that forthcoming legislation allowing equal marriages in England and Wales would not compel any religious organisation to perform such marriages.
  • The legal ban may protect the Church of England from legal claims that as England’s established church it is duty bound to marry anyone who requests it.
  • Gay marriage differs from a civil partnership in that civil partnerships are a legal relationship exclusively for same-sex couples, in this way they are distinct from marriage.
  • However civil partnerships offer the same legal rights as marriage across most matters, such as inheritance, pensions, life insurance, child maintenance, next of kin and immigration rights.
  • Opposite-sex couples can currently opt for a religious or civil marriage ceremony, whereas a same-sex partnership is an exclusively civil procedure.
  • Supporters cite a number of reasons for wanting gay marriage to be legalised, including that separate civil partnerships promote a view that same-sex relationships are not as valid as heterosexual ones and that legal rights are still not exactly the same as those offered by marriage.

International recognition for equal marriage is popular with campaigners because there is no universally-accepted recognition of civil partnerships and they differ widely from one country to the next.

Under new ruling no religious organisation or individual minister will be forced to marry same-sex couples or allow a ceremony to take place on their premises

By amending the 2010 Equality Act no discrimination claim can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple

The legislation explicitly states that it will be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples.

Plans to legalise equal marriage have divided the Conservative Party and more than 100 Tory MPs are thought to be against the idea.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he believes equal marriages should be allowed in churches – but only if there is“100%” guarantee that no church, synagogue or mosque would be forced to hold one them should they be against.

If you would like to read the statement that OnePlusOne sent to all MPs on the second reading of the Equal Marriage Bill, click here.

Key Facts on Committed Relationships by Mark Weber

  • The number of marriages taking place in England and Wales per year has been in decline since the early 70s, decreasing from 404,734 in 1971 to just232,443in 2009. (Source: Office for National Statistics, 2012)
  • This decline is also reflected in the proportion of the population getting married. In England and Wales in 2010, only 21.8 men in every 1000 of the eligible population got married compared to 60.4 men in 1980.  For women, the proportion reduced from 48.1 women in every 1000 in 1980, to 19.8 women in every 1000 in 2010. (Source: ONS, 2012)
  • Despite this drop, marriage remains popular in England and Wales and it is still the most common form of partnership. About two thirds of people aged over 20 were thought to be living as a married couple in 2007. (Source: ONS, 2011)
  • People are waiting until later in life to get married. In 1970 in England and Wales, on average women married at the age of 22.0, and men at 24.1. This had risen to 30.8 for women and 33.4 for men by 2009. (Source: ONS, 2011)
  • This delay in marriage may be due to couples choosing to live together rather than marry. The number of couples cohabiting has nearly doubled over the past seven years. In 2004, there were approximately 142,300 cohabiting couples in England and Wales. This had risen to approximately 285,300 in 2011. (Source: ONS, 2011)
  • Many couples who cohabit still eventually marry in the long-term however.  After 10 years of living together, half have married, 40% have split up, and only 10% continue to cohabit.  (Source: Centre for Population Change, 2011)
  • The number of civil partnerships between same-sex couples have reduced and levelled off since the high levels of uptake that followed the 2005 legislative changes introducing it(ONS, 2010), though figures from last year indicated an increase of 6.4% from 2010 (6, 795 partnerships; ONS, 2012).
  • Attitudes towards cohabitation in the UK are becoming steadily more positive: in 1989, 71% of survey respondents thought that couples wanting children ought to get married.  By 2002 this had dropped to 51%. (Source: British Social Attitudes Survey, 1989-2002)
  • Stepfamilies are one of the fastest growing family forms: 40% of all marriages are remarriages for one or both partners. (Source: ONS, 2011)

Relationship Support through Training in Public Services by Mark Weber

The capacity of people to establish and maintain relationships at home, at work and in our wider social networks is a key determinant of health and wellbeing throughout our lives.[i] [ii]

Relational capability refers to a person’s capacity to develop and maintain healthy relationships, and investing in this can protect and promote the wellbeing of individuals, communities and society.  Evidence shows that people who have healthy relationships make good friends, partners, employees and members of society, and live longer and healthier lives.[iii] [iv]People who, for a variety of reasons, lack the skills required for good relationships can be helped and supported to learn those skills. Without these attributes, people have a reduced capacity to live full and healthy lives.  This in turn affects their ability to parent effectively, and to contribute as effectively as possible to their workplace, and community.

Chronic and poorly resolved conflict within families is particularly harmful to children, with evidence showing strong associations with long-term psychological difficulties including emotional and behavioural problems, difficulties settling and performing at school, problems with peers and others, trouble sleeping and other health related outcomes[1]. Such impacts may be present in both ‘intact’ couples and also parents who remain in conflict after separation. How parents manage and resolve conflict is crucial to children’s healthy development.[v]

Commissioning relationship support services is dependent upon a well-trained and relationally capable workforce. Health visitors, midwives, Children’s Centre staff, social workers, social care staff and other professionals frequently encounter couple relationship issues. Unfortunately, the opportunities to offer support are often missed or ignored simply because staff don’t have the training to feel comfortable discussing relationship issues, or to know how to meet the need. Training can enable frontline professionals to recognise relationship problems, enable clients to talk about them, offer some initial resources to help them deal with the problem, and refer on to other support when necessary.

Therefore a programme of training and engagement with front-line staff will promote greater awareness of the negative impacts of poor quality relationships on a whole range of people’s lives. A programme of training should teach the workforce to identify, address and support parents with relationship stresses and strains and make effective referrals to specialist services.   Changing front line practice through training increases the value and impact of front line resources, engaging with whole families rather than just individuals.  A shift from working with individual “symptoms” to paying due attention to the “relational context” enhances the development of whole family resilience and helps find solutions to difficulties they are experiencing.

 

 

[1] Cummings, E.M. and Davies, P.T. (2010) Marital conflict and children: an emotional security perspective. New York: The Guildford Press.

[i] Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS medicine7(7), e1000316.

[ii] Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social relationships and health a flashpoint for health policy. Journal of health and social behavior51(1 suppl), S54-S66. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (2000). Interpersonal flourishing: A positive health agenda for the new millennium. Personality and Social Psychology Review4(1), 30-44

[iii] Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (2000). Interpersonal flourishing: A positive health agenda for the new millennium. Personality and Social Psychology Review4(1), 30-44

[iv] Seaman, P., McNeice, V., Yates, G., & McLean, J. (2014). Resilience for public health. Glasgow Centre for Population Health.

[v] Harold, G. T., & Leve, L. D. (2012). Parents as partners: how the parental relationship affects children’s psychological development. in Balfour A, Morgan M, Vincent C. (Eds) How Couple Relationships Shape Our World:  Clinical Practice, Research and Policy Perspectives. Karnac