A brief history of Relate

When Relate first opened its doors as the Marriage Guidance Council in 1938, it had been in response to the rising divorce figures which had convinced a clergyman, Dr Herbert Gray, that relationships were taking the strain of life in the modern twentieth century. He had gathered a few colleagues around him in order to carry out research into marriage and divorce, and to provide an education service. But, as news of their work spread, many hundreds of requests came flooding in revealing unforeseen areas of desperate need and unhappiness. Dr Gray later wrote: “We had no office, no funds, no precedent to guide us just an inescapable conviction that this ought to be done, and that nobody else was trying.” Counselling soon became established as the main service and from a small London office, opened in 1943; over 8,000 clients were seen by a group of dedicated volunteers in the next five years.

In the 1950s, as family life began to recover after the traumas of the war years, the Marriage Guidance Council began to be recognised as a national institution providing dedicated and valuable work. The work continued to grow, so that by its Jubilee Year in 1988 the number of Centres across the country had expanded to 160 and the number of client interviews being conducted was nearly a quarter of a million in a year. However, the number of broken marriages was also rising – 160,000 divorces a year, with an average of 420 children experiencing their parents’ divorce every day.

Extensive re-evaluation and re-organisation identified that the needs and expectations of clients had shifted significantly from the early days and on Valentine’s Day 1988, the Marriage Guidance Council re-launched as Relate in recognition of a commitment to reach a wider, more culturally diverse audience. The need to offer impartial, non-judgemental support to all couples in addition to the traditional married relationship was recognised. Along with the patronage of the late Diana, Princess of Wales during the early 1990’s, this fundamental shift in culture raised Relate’s profile substantially, prompting a specially commissioned report Relate: promoting equality and diversity, published in 2002, which has become very much the focus for the future.

A pioneering trainer of relationship counsellors, Relate expanded its academic programme in 2006 when it founded the Relate Institute in partnership with Doncaster College. This training academy now offers a range of professional training courses, each with a pathway to accreditation and the numbers of students are growing year on year. This partnership with Doncaster College, together with the relocation of Relate Central Office from Herbert Gray College in Rugby to Premier House in Doncaster, cemented South Yorkshire as the national home of relationship and family support.

As the organisation celebrated 70 years of promoting strong relationships, Relate had evolved into a modern, thriving organisation providing innovative responses to the needs of the communities it served.

Homelessness prevention for young people, support for separating couples, group workshops for new parents and counselling in schools via webcam, are just some of the pioneering services available at the network of Relate Centres. The highly skilled work-force enables clients to feel better about their relationships, which has an impact on their ability to work or go to school, to maintain a stable home life and to get involved in their community. In housing, health, employment and emotional wellbeing, people who use Relate services see positive outcomes – Relate makes a difference at the heart of society.