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Churches challenged to 'raise their game' on marriage preparation

A new study suggests couples who get relationship counselling before they tie the knot could save the country billions of pounds in benefits every year.

The claim follows a government funded report into three types of marriage and relationship education courses run by charities including Christian groups Marriage Care and Care for the Family, and non-faith based Relate.

It suggests people who go on their pre-marriage courses have a better chance of staying together.

The report which was funded by the Department for Education has also urged the Government to implement a national information campaign strategy that will direct couples to recognised pre-marriage courses, which would be state approved through a regulated system.

Broken relationships cost the exchequer between £20 and £40 billion pounds a year in extra benefits for single parents, housing costs and spending on health and criminal justice linked to family justice, according to the Relationship Foundation.

A Christian MP is using the report to urge churches to 'raise their game' by offering more advice to couples who are thinking of getting married, with a call for them to improve the support they offer to people after they tie the knot.

Tory MP Andrew Selous who's Chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on sustainable relationships tells Premier's Des Busteed why he's backing the report:

The study's figures are based on a cost-benefit analysis of marriage preparation courses which found that for Relate couple counselling, £11.40 of benefits are realised for every £1 spent to deliver this support.

In the case of Marriage Care's FOCCUS marriage preparation it was even more positive: for every pound spent on such provision there is a benefit of £11.50.

The researchers do admit there is a large degree of 'uncertainty' around the figures but suggest interventions might provide substantially greater savings to society through the avoidance of costs associated with relationship breakdown than they cost to deliver.

Judy Corlyon from the Tavistock Institute which carried out the research tells Premier's Des Busteed why more studies are still needed:

The Department for Education has responded to the research.

A spokesperson said: "We know that relationship breakdown has an immediate impact on the health and wellbeing of children.

"This is why we have dedicated £30 million for vital relationship support services up until 2015 - providing professional-led advice and assistance to families on everything from couples counselling to support for first time parents."

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