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The growing need for relationship support in policy and practice

By OnePlusOne, 25 March 2013 Strengthening relationships

The recent debates over the Equal Marriage Bill inspired parliamentarians from all sides to ponder the meaning of marriage and partnership in 2013, and how it changed over the decades of the 20th century.

While the number of marriages has declined over the last 40 years, the number of couples viewing cohabitation as both a prelude and an alternative to marriage has sharply increased. There has been a changing sequence of family formation, and the number of children born outside of marriage has risen. More adults will now experience separation, live alone without a partner, and re-partner.

Relationships are fragile, though marriages slightly less-so.

One advantage we have today is a body of compelling evidence that shows that stable and harmonious relationships improve the quality of life for both adults and children. And evidence is growing about what makes relationships work, how to improve them and how to support families when they go wrong.

While relationship breakdown has become a common experience, the adverse outcomes for adults and children have not diminished. The recent coverage of the Huhne/Pryce trial reminds us of the level of distress experienced when couples part, and how this distress impacts on children of all ages, as well as wider family and friends. It’s no wonder recent estimates of the cost of relationship breakdown to the state per annum have reached £44billion.

The consequences of separation (married or not) are detrimental to the economy and adult and children’s wellbeing. But intact relationships don’t necessarily result in better outcomes. The quality of children’s lives is affected by the quality of their parents’ relationship; if the quality is good it offers protective factors, but if it is poor it is associated with poorer parenting and poorer parent –child relationships.  Sir Michael Marmot, commenting on the 2010 health inequalities review Fairer Society, Healthy Lives, stressed the need to improve the quality of nurturing in early family life.

But making policy on these broadly social, but intensely private, issues is difficult. It’s clear that the knowledge we have about relationships needs to be made more accessible – to policy makers, commissioners of services and service providers, and the general public.

For this reason four national providers of relationship support – Relate, OnePlusOne, Marriage Care and TCCR – have joined together to form the Relationship Support Alliance, and will work over the next two years to influence policy and develop local infrastructure in relationship support.

The strategic aims of the Alliance are to:

  1. Strengthen the policy case for relationship support to go beyond why relationships matter to the impact of providing support
  2. Grow the influence and reach of the relationship support sector
  3. Grow the market for relationship support
  4. Support the local infrastructure to develop and mature
  5. Become the strategic hub for expertise and insight about relationship support


Over the next two years the Alliance will pool the knowledge of each member organisation, add to it, and deliver it in accessible ways. We will continue to update supporters on our latest findings, developments and progress via the OnePlusOne eBulletin. Sign up at the bottom of the page today to have it delivered straight to your inbox.


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Posted 27 March 2013

A very good piece and joint initiative, Penny.

You are quite right. There has been seldom been such a distressing and vivid example of the effect of marital/relationship breakdown on children as the Huhne/Pryce trial. A more public example of what not to do if possible is hard to imagine. There couldn’t be a better time for some joint pooling and propagating of research resources.

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