Tavistock Relationships, one of the leading providers of relationship support in the UK, is pleased to see that such an impressive list of academics, authors, voluntary sector and think-tank leaders all supported the letter which has appeared in today’s Telegraph calling on the Government to increase investment in relationship support services.

Many people cannot afford to access relationship support services, even when they are subsidised by charities. Why does this matter, some may ask. Well, in economic terms, relationship breakdown costs the UK an estimated £47bn annually. These costs are incurred through increased benefits payments, increased health and social care demand (e.g. children’s mental ill health), usage of the criminal justice system and impact on education services (e.g. disciplinary and behavioural problems). The emotional cost of relationship breakdown is also immense.

Children learn how to conduct relationships primarily from their parents. Investing in relationship support is therefore a key way in which we can tackle the intergenerational transmission of poor ways of relating. Research conclusively demonstrates the harm which poorly managed inter-parental conflict has on the emotional wellbeing of children. For while periodic conflict between couples is natural, and something which most children will be exposed to at some point in their lives without necessarily experiencing adverse effects, couple conflict which is frequent, intense and poorly resolved is very harmful, manifesting itself in a number of ways, including increased anxiety, depression, aggression, hostility, anti-social behaviour and criminality as well as deficits in academic attainment. 

We know that interventions - such as couple counselling - to support relationships work; indeed, studies show that couples counselling can be effective at treating alcohol and substance abuse, depression, infidelity, domestic violence and general distress in relationships (“There is very clear evidence for its value as a treatment for a range of difficulties and disorders faced by individuals, couples and families”).

Let’s hope that the Government is listening. Increased investment in this vital, but currently neglected area of social policy, would have benefits for us all.