Key issues from LCD MARS Seminar – 26th June 2002
By Dave Percival
Understanding the LCD
In June 2002 the LCD held a seminar for an invited audience to share the learning from the 2002 round of funding, and to set the scene for the 2003 round. This article is compiled from notes taken at the seminar. The LCD has undertaken to publish notes and advice, but to date this has not been made available.
LCD Family Policy Division is structured with two sections, covering Adult and Children issues respectively. Both are aligned to the Government overall aim of delivering better lives for all in society – and in particular for children and the most vulnerable. Family breakdown not only puts children at greater risk directly, but it also places a greater burden on society at large, and is frequently repeated in future generations. Tackling this is both a moral and an economic imperative.
The LCD has set specific measurable strategic objectives to guide it’s overall direction and against which to demonstrate progress. Family Policy Division is measured against PSA 8 – which measures the contact between children and other family members.
The LCD sees a pyramid of intervention areas:-
- Domestic violence
- Hostile breakdown – courts and CAFCASS
- Amicable Separation
- Relationship Support
Success at the lowest level (Relationship Support) helps prevent escalation to the next level etc.
The LCD has responsibility (inter alia) for the forthcoming legislation on Civil Partnerships.
LCD believes that a stable two-parent family is the most effective support for children and within this context MARS is seen as a key enabler to reduce adult relationship breakdown.
Where does Marriage fit
Government has a policy to support Marriage, and Marriage remains the relationship of choice for the majority of long term couple relationships.
The State cannot tell people what form of relationship to adopt, and will not support the concept of a hierarchy of relationships as this stigmatises particular forms.
The Government accepts that the long term data supports the view that marriage lasts longer, but does not point to direct causal factors. Marriage is only one of a range of stable couple relationships that the government will support.
Therefore the approach is to support a diverse range of stable couple relationships – it sees this as a spectrum with Marriage as just one aspect.
Focus of MARS
It is recognised that MARS support has tended to focus on breakdown, And it is desired to shift the emphasis towards prevention (This was a recurring theme)
They see this as including:-
- Focusing on young people at the time of their first relationships
- Changing attitudes so that gaining relationship skills is seen as desirable
- Focusing on skills for all kinds of relationships
- Increasing awareness of the support that is available
- Encouraging the voluntary sector as this is more cost effective and less interventionist.
There is a real desire and imperative to focus on prevention rather than breakdown services. However the MARS budget as a whole is only 2% of what is spent on the court/legal aid system on family law issues.
A critical factor to getting more funding is to demonstrate to the Treasury the cost effectiveness of money spent in the area vs other Government priorities. The conundrum of:-
- Recognising that measuring the causal effectiveness of preventative measures is virtually impossible
- We are dealing with long term, deep seated issues, and the measurements timescale and annualised funding don’t stack up
- The relatively small funding, and short term nature tend to mean that it is best for pilot or initiation type projects, but the granularity of long term data from ONS (which is a subset of the Treasury) doesn’t support the measurement requirements.