Harman: Families need dedicated minister

Families need a dedicated cabinet minister to coordinate support, Harriet Harman argues.

Speaking to the New Local Government Network think-tank, Ms Harman, minister for family justice at the Department for Constitutional Affairs, will call for more dedicated support for families.

“Local government services have long had a focus on protecting the vulnerable and have also looked to building the strength of local communities through tenants and residents and community organisations. But what more can local government do to support the families that underpin those communities?” she will ask.

The government must be in touch with the frontline of struggling families, Ms Harman will argue. Forging better departmental links between community and education would support families, she is set to claim.

Proposals include opening schools for longer to allow communities to use their facilities.

“We need to ensure that the millions invested in the state of sport, computers and arts facilities in rebuilt and new schools are not closed after school, at weekends or school holidays but are available to young people in the local community whether or not they go to the school and not at a price which shuts them out,” Ms Harman is set to argue.

“We need to take the Sure Start approach – high quality community based services accessible to all but focussing first on areas of deprivation – and take it up the age range.”

However, the NCH has claimed the government can support families with existing structures. However, it needs to assess the impact of policies from various departments and ensure they are adopting consistent measures.

NCH chief executive Clare Tickell added: “Ultimately supporting families is about making life better for the children and young people in those families. But some children, through no fault of their own, aren’t being brought up in a family.

“It is these children who are incredibly vulnerable and need support – a minister for the family might unwittingly exclude the youngsters who need it the most.”