Dáil Éireann - Volume 503 - 20 April, 1999
Written Answers. - Family Policy.
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
430. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if the promotion of marriage, as distinct from other forms of family arrangement for child rearing, is an explicit objective of the Family Affairs Unit in his Department. [9988/99]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The functions of the family affairs unit are:
 –to co-ordinate family policy;
–to pursue the findings in the final report of the Commission on the family following their consideration by the Government;
–to undertake research, and
–to promote awareness about family issues.
The unit has responsibility for support for the marriage and child counselling services and the family mediation service as well as a number of other family services including a pilot programme to improve services to families from local offices of my Department through the one-stop-shop model and the introduction of an information programme on parenting issues in consultation with the Department of Health and Children.
The family affairs unit in pursuing its function to co-ordinate family policy and to pursue the findings in the report of the Commission on the Family works closely with other Government Departments and agencies which share responsibility for the Governments programme in relation to policy development for families and children.
The family affairs unit was established in the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs in line with the Government's pro-family approach to the development of policy and services as set out in An Action Programme for the Millennium, and in response to the recommendations of the Commission on the Family.
The Government is committed to protecting the family through political, economic, social and other measures which will support the stability of the family. The specific responsibilities of the family affairs unit in this context include the administration of the £2.1 million grant aid programme to support the provision of marriage, child and bereavement counselling, the nation-wide extension of the family mediation service which is now available from eight centres throughout the country as well as the development of support projects to do with parenting and improved information services for families. The unit further contributes to the development of family policy through highlighting awareness about family issues and the findings of the Commission on the Family and undertaking research. A series of family services information fora for voluntary and community groups who work with families is under way throughout the country in line with the unit's functions in this area. A families research programme to encourage high quality research about families to underpin the future development of policies and services was launched last month. The promotion of one form of family arrangement over another does not arise in any of these contexts.
The overriding responsibility of my Department relates to the provision of income support payments in an equitable manner to individuals and families who depend on these services.
In the wider context of the treatment of different types of households under the income support system, the report of the working group which  was established to examine the tax and social welfare treatment of married, cohabiting and one parent households will be highly relevant to future income support policy development. The group's terms of reference include identifying and costing ways of ensuring consistent and equitable treatment of all household types. I expect to receive the report of the working group in the Summer.
Dáil Éireann 503 Written Answers. Family Policy.