It’s the end of the week, so what better way to move into Friday than with a bit of a laugh? Except it’s for real. And the joke’s on the government.

In a piece in the Guardian today, we’re told that in an effort to unclog the greasy drainpipes of the family courts,  the government has rolled out a pilot which offers free DNA testing to families in order to clear up who the baby daddy is. But that’s not the funny bit.

The article also tells us that families who keep turning up at court will be funneled off into what is being called The Troubled Families Unit. Yup, that’s its actual name.

You can just see it now – “Don’t you be telling me you’re not the father. I’m going down to the Troubled Families Unit today and then we’ll see who’s laughing.”

The trouble is, we don’t really know what a troubled family unit looks like. It’s been troubling trying to define the troubled family in the past. Well, you can see the trouble with it, can’t you? In 2012 stats trying to quantify and identify troubled families were met with laughter by all – the research was having some trouble identifying and defining our troubled families. But a list was created, and included:

a) no parent in work
b) poor quality housing,
c) no parent with qualifications,
d) mother with mental health problems
e) one parent with longstanding disability/illness
f) family has low income,
g) Family cannot afford some food/clothing items

According to the government, if you display 5 out of these 7 elements, you are troubled. Now we can add an 8th:

h) constantly having to go back to court because the system is rubbish

Yes, that’s going to go down well. Just like the Troubled Family Unit. We’re all going to be queuing up to get a piece of that.

Going back for a moment to the central theme of the article, the pilot it appears, will not only be offering free DNA paternity tests, but will also be doing hair strand tests for drug and alcohol addiction. Given the latest news that DNA testing companies are turning their attention to children in the court system (to see if illegal drugs are in their system due to abuse or being exposed to them in the womb), we wonder how many children may be put through this often traumatic process, possibly without the right kind of counselling beforehand.

Yet, the piece isn’t all bad. Simon Hughes, our justice minister, would like to see family courts being turned into advice centres and families moved away from the court system altogether so that they can resolve matters in a more appropriate and problem-specific way. Hughes is also advocating cutting lawyers out of the equation wherever possible, and, we think quite rightly says the state doesn’t owe lawyers their living.

That’s the good bit. The rest, unfortunately, just amounts to a great punch line for the weekend.

Big hat tip to the ever clever Tracey McMahon for sharing this news item with us.