Family sector leaders joint statement on separated family policy principles.

3 May 2006

A contribution to the Government review of separated family policy

4 May 2006

Put child welfare first

  • Policy should be based on the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child and on the Children Act 1989.

    Implications for action 

  • Start with research on the needs, views and rights of children in separated families. 
  • Monitoring role of policy by the Children’s Commissioners. 
  • Hear children’s opinions in separating/separated families (without placing children in vulnerable position). 
  • Help parents build cooperative relationships post separation, free from conflict, and maximize opportunities for children to maintain strong, safe and enduring relationships with both parents and their two families. 
  • Provide support directly to children whose parents are separating. 
  • Protect children from hearing or witnessing harmful conflicts between parents and protect children from loss of contact with a parent unless this is necessary for the child’s safety.

Support parents

Policy should support both parents in both roles – caring and earning. It should take into account the increase in sharing of roles in the last 30 years, the greater aspirations of parents to fulfill both earning and caring roles and the broad range of influences on parents’ abilities to provide for the well-being of their children.


  • Services should be supportive of parents, recognizing the often devastating impact of relationship breakdown, and be able to understand the wide variety of needs of parents in this situation. 
  • More relationship support pre- and post-separation; early communication of its availability to all parents, e.g. at time of the birth of their children; more trained practitioners. 
  • More support to separated parents in ‘non-traditional’ roles – men in caring, women in working. 
  • More programmes to tackle domestic violence, including perpetrator programmes and early interventions, risk management, and safety and support for children and non-abusive parents. 
  • State benefits and employment assistance configured to support both parents in caring and in earning roles. 
  • Existing services – e.g. benefits, child support, employment services, Children’s Centres – as portals to specialist advice to separating/separated parents and their families – housing, debt, employment, benefits, parenting skills, relationship support, health, etc. 
  • Recognition of the continuing importance of the extended family in children’s lives when parents separate.

Take account of international experience

Experience from other countries shows that interventions based on these principles drive up the level of child support paid; help foster constructive relationships between parents and children and between ex-partners; leave parents feeling better treated and also bring substantial savings to the public purse.

Effective sanctions

Effective sanctions are required for those parents who do not fulfill their caring and financial responsibilities either by disengaging from them or by restricting the other parent from engaging with their children. Sanctions should not undermine the best interests of the child.

Caroline Abrahams, NCH
Cathy Ashley, Family Rights Group
John Baker, Families Need Fathers
Ruth Black, Ormiston Children & Families Trust
Dorit Braun, Parentline Plus
Dr Ann Buchanan, University of Oxford
Dr Samantha Callan, Care for the Family and Edinburgh University
Dr Hamish Cameron, Hon Consultant Child Psychiatrist, St George’s Hospital
Lisa Cohen, Jewish Unity for Multiple Parenting
Mary Crowley, Parenting Forum
Ruth Dalzell, National Children’s Bureau
Professor Brigid Daniel, University of Dundee
Carol Daniel, Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council
Helen Dent, Family Welfare Association
Professor Judy Dunn, Institute of Psychiatry
Professor Brid Featherstone, Bradford University
Duncan Fisher, Fathers Direct
Kate Green, Child Poverty Action Group
Nicola Harwin, Women’s Aid
Joan Hunt, Oxford University
Pip Jaffa, Parents Advice Centre, Belfast
Sandra Horley OBE, Refuge
Mary Macleod, NFPI
Penny Mansfield, One Plus One
Professor Michael Lamb, Cambridge University
Dame Julie Mellor
Jenny North, Relate
Roger Olley, Children North East
Chris Pond, NCOPF
Terry Prendergast, Marriage Care
Dame Gillian Pugh
Kulbir Randhawa, Asian Family Counselling Service
Karen Richardson, York Centre for Separated Families
Ceridwen Roberts, Oxford University
Yvonne Roberts, writer
Jane Robey, National Family Mediation
Mary Ryan, RTB Associates
Dr Christine Skinner, University of York
Jean Smith, Scoop Aid
Jo Todd, Respect
Dirk Uitterdijk, YMCA
Gwen Vaughan, Gingerbread