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Support for families going through divorce and separation must improve

Date:17 DEC 2015
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Relate report calls for national helpline and single point of access 

Couples going through the emotional rollercoaster of separation and divorce are being let down by a complex, fragmented support system that is hard to access and even more difficult to navigate. This is according to a new report ‘Breaking Up is Hard to Do’ launched today (Thursday 17 December) by the UK’s leading relationships charity, Relate at an event attended by Ministers from the Department of Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice.

The report finds that there is no clear entry point for people to access support and information, agencies aren’t working together and children and young people’s voices are often absent. As a result, families are finding themselves trapped in a cycle of conflict and court battles, which evidence suggests leads to damaging outcomes for children.

The report launches as Relate prepares for an anticipated spike in the number of people contacting them for relationship support this January following a difficult Christmas together.

In response to the report’s findings, Relate is calling for a single point of access for information and support before, during and after separation, as well as a national helpline. Speaking today at the report launch, Caroline Dinenage, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, and Baroness Altmann, Minister of State for Pensions today both welcomed Relate’s examination of how families could be better supported.

Justice Minister Caroline Dinenage said:

'The fallout from an acrimonious split between parents can have devastating effects on children. Research shows that people find going to court daunting and would rather avoid doing so, especially if children are involved.

We want to help separating couples take responsibility for making their own arrangements, so that cases are resolved out of court wherever possible. This is at the heart of my plans to move away from a ’one-size-fits-all’ system, towards family justice which is focused on people’s needs. That way we will ensure the system is much better at supporting children and vulnerable adults.' 

Baroness Ros Altmann said:

'Family is vital in providing a foundation for a child’s development and success, so it’s right that we do everything we can to support them in difficult times – and shield children from the harm that conflict during family break-up can cause to their life chances.

Family breakdown is clearly very difficult for everyone involved, but we know that children are often particularly negatively affected.

With evidence showing that children benefit when their parents work together to support them, even if they decide they cannot stay together, it makes sense that we focus on helping families to do this.'

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive at Relate said:

'We all know that breaking up is hard to do, but the complex system is making it unnecessarily difficult. We need a holistic, wraparound system of support for family relationships before, during and after separation which places the families, not the agencies at the centre. This will allow families to manage their own separation, helping to reduce conflict and improve child outcomes. It’s promising to see two Government departments working together on this important issue and we are keen to see how our recommendations will be taken forward.'

The report 'Breaking Up Is Hard To Do' is available to download here.
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