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New test should put family policy at the heart of British politics – where it belongs

Plans for a new ‘family test’ to be applied to Government policies – which the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) first called for in its original Breakthrough Britain work – have been unveiled.

All Whitehall initiatives will now be measured against the effect they have on the formation of stable families, parenting and caring duties and the risk of breakdown and separation.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it was crucial that all departments understand how policies impact families.

Civil servants will be expected to ask themselves a number of questions while formulating policy at an early stage.

Dr Samantha Callan, the CSJ’s Associate Director for Families, appeared on BBC 5 Live Breakfast where she said the new test would rightly put family policy centre stage in British politics.

In a statement, covered by the Press Association, she added: “We can’t afford for family stability to continue as a political afterthought. I hope the new test will put it at the heart of public policy – where it belongs.”

The questions are:

• What impact will policies have on family formation?

• What impact will policies have on families going through key transitions such as becoming parents, getting married, fostering or adopting, bereavement, redundancy, new caring responsibilities or the onset of a long-term health condition?

• What impact will policies have on all family members' ability to play a full role in family life, including with respect to parenting and other caring responsibilities?

• What impact will policies have on families before, during and after couple separation?

The CSJ is a leading voice on British family policy and has published numerous reports, including: Fractured Families, Supporting Families, Strengthening Marriage, Breakthrough Britain: Family Breakdown and Fully Committed?

CSJ recommendation to ban shops selling ‘legal highs’ backed by experts

A Government report has outlined plans to close shops which sell ‘legal highs’ – in a scheme the CSJ recommended earlier this year.

The proposal, put forward by a team of Government experts last Thursday, would ban so-called ‘head shops’ and websites from selling ‘legal highs’, which are now linked to more than two deaths per week in the UK.

The CSJ saw similar legislation working well in Ireland and recommended it be adopted in the UK in the report Ambitious for Recovery, published as part of the Breakthrough Britain 2015 series in August.

Rather than banning individual substances, in Ireland all ‘legal highs’ (or psychoactive substances) are banned and anyone caught selling these drugs for human consumption can have their shop closed down.

In less than a year after the legislation was introduced in Ireland, the number of ‘head shops’ went from over 100 to fewer than 10.

On the same day the CSJ was also at the heart of a major debate on wider drugs laws in the UK – arguing against decriminalising and legalising banned substances.

It followed a report leaked by the then Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker, who claimed that decriminalising some banned substances could be beneficial.

The CSJ said decriminalising illegal drugs would only make Britain’s addiction problems worse.

Ed Boyd, CSJ Deputy Policy Director, appeared on BBC News, BBC 5 Live, Sky News and Channel 5 News to outline why softening the laws would be wrong.

He said: “Instead of making dangerous drugs easier to access we should be improving the treatment available to addicts and seeking to prevent drug use in the first place.

"People want the law on the side of common sense and they want politicians to focus on the things that matter. We waved a white flag to drugs a long time ago and we are paying a heavy price. Further liberalisation would make things worse not better."

Rupert Oldham-Reid, the CSJ lead addiction researcher, wrote a blog posing 10 questions proponents of decriminalisation should answer. Read it here.

The CSJ has carried out a wealth of research on addiction and produced numerous reports, including: Ambitious for Recovery, No Quick Fix and Breakthrough Britain: Addiction.

Youth mental health under the spotlight at CSJ event

The CSJ is teaming up with leading urban youth charity XLP to host an event exploring youth mental health on December 4.

ITV News presenter Nina Hossain will host the event, which will look at issues such as why children from the lowest income households are three times more likely to suffer from mental health problems compared to children from the wealthiest backgrounds.

Other speakers will include XLP founder and CEO Patrick Regan and Dr Samantha Callan, CSJ Associate Director for Families and Mental Health. Dr Charlie Howard, a clinical physiologist and founder of MAC-UK, and Olu Oyerinde, the Youth Offending Nurse for Tower Hamlets, will also speak at the event.

The CSJ has carried out extensive work on mental health issues, including Completing the Revolution and Commissioning Effective Talking Therapies.

More details of the event are available here.