By Lord Carey
Take, for example, the way the Coalition Government has paid lip service to its importance, seeming to penalise couples rather than support them.
In their radical redefinition of marriage, the electorate was assured the Government supported gay marriage because of a belief in the importance of marriage. But in making children secondary to the civil definition of marriage, many of us have continuing doubts about the commitment of this Government to supporting families.
Let’s take the financial costs. Some economists estimate the couples’ penalty — which is the amount they lose each year in tax credits when they start to live together — can reach as much as £7,100 a year.
It is a scandal, and a great injury to children, that parents are penalised for living together.
Furthermore, an estimated 240,000 couples with children are pretending to live apart to get better benefits, according to a report by the Marriage Foundation.
The benefits system discourages couples from committing to each other, feeding the epidemic of fatherlessness. Furthermore, the incentives to live separately are bound to lead to relationship breakdown.
Yes, of course, the Government has tried to address this matter. There have been attempts to shore up support for marriage in the reintroduction of a transferable allowance for married couples. But the amount of £200 is so derisory it does not even begin to tackle the penalty against marriage. It has also become clear that Government policy towards families with a stay-at-home parent has had an element of ‘friendly fire’ about it. Take the example of the new childcare tax benefits, which favour only families where couples both work.
It is as though the Government is saying that childcare is worthy of financial recognition only if it is done outside the home.