The Family Room alliance was established as the focal point for progressive debate and expertise on UK family policy at Party Conference time. Family Room is an alliance of fourteen leading family sector organisations that provide helplines, face-to-face services, training, information, and research; reaching and supporting millions of families each year. With support from the Department for Education, as part of the Families Strategic Partnership, the fourteen organisations work together to ensure events at conferences provide an opportunity for conference delegates to engage in discussions around the real issues faced by families today, with insight from leading figures in the family sector on what families value. This report aims to give an overview of the 2011 Family Room events and to reflect the ways in which family and parenting featured at each of the three conferences. In the aftermath of the riots, families and parenting were at the centre of debate at all three 2011 party conferences, with each party highlighting the extent to which they felt they were ‘on the side of families’. Although some new policies were announced that will have some effect on family policy (including the announcement by Minister for Children and Families, Sarah Teather MP, of a parenting classes trial), there were not many major new policy announcements that will have far-reaching significance for families. The overarching themes dominating conference speeches and fringe events around the family were:
- how to support families feeling the strain in an age of austerity
- the debate around ‘problem parents’ (in the aftermath of the riots) and families and parents with multiple problems
- how to make a reality of the policy emphasis on early intervention.