Couples in Australia are to be given a voucher worth £100 to spend on relationship counselling as part of a Government trial to prevent family breakdown.
Kevin Andrews, the Social Services Minister, said that evidence shows strong relationships between parents make a “substantial difference to a child”.
The 12-month scheme – starting on 1 July – allows couples who are married, same-sex partners or those in a committed relationship to apply for a $200 subsidy.
There will be 100,000 vouchers available, which can be used for marriage and relationship education and counselling, parenting classes, conflict resolution and financial management advice.
Relationship counsellors have welcomed the trial.
Jennifer Mason, who co-ordinates pre-marriage education services, said: “Programmes like ours are really about couples taking time out from their daily life, having some dedicated time together and looking at improving their skills.”
Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition Labor party, criticised the trial saying the Government has the wrong priorities.
He said the Government “doesn’t quite appreciate that cost of living can put pressure on marriages”.
In Australia, research commissioned in 2011 by Christian campaign group Australian Christian Lobby showed that around 25 per cent of children born between 1981-85 had either been born to a single mother or experienced parental separation by the age of 15.
In the UK the Marriage Foundation think-tank has called on the Government to support couples in the early stages of marriage.
The comments came following a call for evidence from the Department for Work and Pensions, which is leading a Family Stability Review.
Harry Benson, Communications Director for the Marriage Foundation, said it “may be difficult politically to be seen to favour married couples”, but “the focus should be on children and giving parents incentives to create the most stable possible environment for bringing up their families”.
In December the think-tank held a conference at which family judge Sir Paul Coleridge called for a greater emphasis on helping prevent problems within marriage before they start, rather than relying on marriage guidance after a break-up has happened.