Secondly, it is a benefit payable to workers via the tax system which leads to increased net income for the concerned.
Before 1997, all governments did not deal with family policy explicitly. However, the rest of the Europe highly embraced this. Under New Labour, there has been a tremendous change with regard to family policy. They have adopted the ideas of "social investment" in children. They have also realized that the great changes in family forms and the nature of contributions made by women and men in the families can not be ignored any more (Lewis, 2007).
However, family is not an easy territory for these policymakers. Consensus on what a family should look like nowadays remains elusive as politicians find themselves treading on dangerous grounds. They avoid making any judgement regarding sexual morality or intimate relationship forms. Before 1997, the instinct was to look back to the traditional two-parent and married family. This is where the men were to be bread winners while women took care of the home and children.
The earliest policy document was titled "Supporting Families." The aim of this approach was to address the changes. They have stopped condemning single mothers as a moral and social problem and a threat. Instead, the major focus has shifted back to that of the 1970s. Labour decided to increase employment rates for these single mothers since they could not provide enough money considering there was only one person providing both care and wages.
Labour has been a bit too radical in its mission to address the issues caused by the changing nature of women and men's contribution to families, which is the increase in the increase in women's participation in the labour market. Initially, the UK did not so much concern itself in issues regarding work and family balance, specifically those regarding various types of leave for fathers and mothers and childcare. This has since changed and is now at par with the rest of Europe. Many families now have two incomes since many women also work, although part time in many cases.
To respond to this trend, Labour has invested heavily in subsidies for childcare. They have also increased from fourteen weeks to nine months. This is expected to further increase to twelve months by 2010. They have also introduced the right to request flexible working patterns for young children's parents and caretakers of adult dependants. In addition, they have doubled maternity pay.
During the initiation of these changes, Labour had a difficult task guarding against becoming a "nanny" state and responding to claims that it was undermining family privacy. The critics particularly did not like Labour to instigate parenthood programmes. Labour has shifted from the false position of the 1980s and early 1990s that parents are the most knowledgeable. It continues to insist on the importance of parental choice in respect to family practices. In particular, the way parents choose to combine care work and employment.
However, these family members' interests often conflict. For instance, by men choosing not to do care work, it affects the women's choice to work. This issue of choice more often than not only masks inequality and power in family issues whenever it is applied in family policy. It has been argued that not enough has been done to encourage men to do care work. Giving fathers a "daddy leave" would really help achieve this (NAO,