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Should the stability of couples be a public policy issue?

How far should the state interfere in people’s lives? Should family policy guarantee couples the means for their stability? This is the question posed by the latest report from the think tank Vers le haut (including Bayard, the editor of The cross, is a partner) presented on Tuesday 29 March.

Over the eleven proposals, he calls on the State to better support couples in order to avoid breakups, in the name of the well-being of people but also – and above all – of the good management of public finances. In his preface, sociologist Julien Damon sums up the issue: “The stability of couples, what whatever the legal form of their union, has a positive impact on the well-being of individuals and very tangible consequences for public finances. “

Such an approach is sure to surprise. Traditionally, in France, great caution exists on this issue. While the state intervenes massively to support parents via policies to support parenting or to help couples maintain a peaceful bond after separation via family mediation, little or nothing exists to help couples to last. The question is seen as purely private, possibly a matter of morality, but not of public policy.

The significant cost of separations on the public accounts

However, without calling into question the right to divorce and the free choice of couples, Vers le Haut shows that the question also has a political aspect. The separations have indeed a cost for the public accounts.

Due to the resulting loss of purchasing power, family allowance funds pay an average of € 3,500 per year for a rather well-off separated family with one child; and € 9,500 per year for a separated family receiving the RSA. Either a significant financial burden while “380,000 children are affected each year by the breakup of their parents’ couple”.

Why, therefore, not invest in marriage counseling, a poor relation of the current family policy? The question may seem iconoclastic, against the grain of the times, but the report points out that Denmark, the United States or the United Kingdom have already included support for the couple in their family policy.

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In France, marriage counseling, which consists of intervening with couples in crisis to help them overcome their difficulties, “Remains poorly recognized and relatively undeveloped”, already noted the High Council to the Family in 2014. The Igas for its part estimated, in 2006, that 2,200 people exercised this profession in the general councils, hospitals or in liberal. “Even today, there is no unified diploma, nor even a recognized profession”, regrets Armelle Nollet, secretary general of Cler, one of the main associations in the sector, present throughout the territory.

A real benefit

Still, the benefit would be real. This is what emerges, in any case, from a consultation organized with 254 couples who used it, by Vers le Haut with the operator Familya and the consulting firm Haatch. The results show a “Improvement of the quality of the relationship between spouses” in 73% of cases, a “Decrease in conflict” by 36%. In the end, among the couples who thought of separating, “73% decide to stay together”, even notes the report.

Results which do not surprise Armelle Nollet. “In three or four sessions, we sometimes manage to unblock certain small problems which, over time, have become unlivable. For example, when one has the impression of never being listened to, often the other does not even realize that he decides everything, on his own.. ” Adjustments or nudges that can, in some cases, be enough to make couples last.


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