The Thinktank Demos has published their new report “The Ties That Bind” which unsurprisingly that finds low income is a major concern for families suffering from multiple disadvantages and that family services alone cannot support families who “ find themselves swept along by broader economic currents, which reflect the number and nature of jobs available to them in local areas.”

The authors describe multiple disadvantage as being a story of interdependence, whereby good family relationships can help to build resilience for low income families and dysfunctional ones may limit the capacity to flourish.  The complexity of familial relationships, they find, should be a key consideration for public services, recognising the fact that addressing a child’s issues may first mean addressing parental problems.  One aspect of this could be ensuring that families are in receipt of all of the benefits they are entitled to, which could reduce stress significantly and contribute to better relationships.  Being able to call on family and friends for childcare is also deemed important to family wellbeing, however, the report finds that the social and economic value of unpaid care is not recognised sufficiently by government.

Government policies can exacerbate problems.  The researchers cite the bedroom tax as a policy which risks getting people into debt or  having to move away from support networks if they can’t pay the additional rent.   They found that support services are not seen by many disadvantaged families as being supportive of their needs and that there is often a real mistrust of social services given their dual role in support and protection.

The report sets out a number of recommendations for UK and Scottish policy makers.

  • Review of support for carers of adults
  • Repeal of the bedroom tax
  • Family networks  to be a factor in allocating social housing
  • A legal requirement for Jobcentres to ensure clients receive all of the benefits to which they are entitled
  • Continuity of relationships between social service staff and service users
  • Split the entitlement and service provision aspects of Jobcentres
  • Consider splitting the enforcement and support functions of social services
  • Allowing parents more input into the named professional role as required by GIRFEC
  • Formal representation in governance structures for service users, professionals and funders in family service institutions

Read the report