Under the initiative, which will be trialled in 12 local authorities, relationship and family support will be provided in a bid to salvage relationships – for the benefit of their children.
The councils taking part are Blackburn, Blackpool, Cheshire West and Chester, Croydon, Dorset, Essex, Gateshead, Greater Manchester, Hertfordshire, Luton, Westminster, and Worcestershire.
The Department for Work and Pensions said the trials will be tailored to the requirements of each area, but could include developing training for frontline staff to spot signs of relationship distress, supporting couple counselling provision in the local area, and adapting parenting programmes to include a focus on the couples’ relationship.
The councils have been told they can apply for seed funding to develop new or existing initiatives.
Duncan Smith said children are often particularly negatively affected by relationship breakdown.
“With evidence showing that children benefit when their parents work together to support them, even if they decide they cannot stay together, it makes sense that we focus on helping families to do this,” he said.
“That’s why I’m pleased to be launching these trials – which are aimed at developing local, tailored support services.
“Family is vital in providing a foundation for a child’s development and success, so it’s right that we do everything we can to support them in difficult times – and shield children from the harm that family break-up can cause to their prospects as adults.”
This trial is part of the government’s response to the Family Stability Review, led by the DWP, which looked at the causes of family breakdown and developed recommendations on how to help parents create and maintain good-quality relationships.
The review found that local authorities are well placed to provide support as they deliver a range of family-centred services.
Not-for-profit social enterprise Innovation Unit, in collaboration with OnePlusOne, a sector expert in relationship support, will provide specialist advice and support to the local authorities to help develop services.