One million children grow up with no contact with their father, reports Centre for Social Justice
Report paints a melodramatic picture, says Gingerbread
Lone parent families are increasing at a rate of more than 20,000 a year and will total more than two million by the time of the next election, according to a new report accusing the Government of turning a blind eye to its commitment to promote family stability.
The report, to be published by the Centre for Social Justice in the week beginning 10th June , also finds that at least one million children are growing up without a father and that some of the poorest parts of the country have become "men deserts" because so few primary schools have male teachers.
Across England and Wales, one in four primary schools has no male teacher and 80 per cent have fewer than three.
The report warns that father absence is linked to higher rates of teenage crime, pregnancy and disadvantage.
In a foreword to the report, titled: 'Fractured Families: why stability matters', from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Director Christian Guy warns of the "tsunami" of family breakdown battering the country.He says the human, social and financial costs are "devastating" for children and adults alike. Yet faced with this national "emergency", the response from politicians of the Left and the Right has been "feeble".
"Family breakdown is an urgent public health issue. Backing commitment and setting a goal of reducing instability does not equate to criticising or stigmatising lone parents or those involved.
"Within this need for new maturity, we should also agree that marriage is not a right wing obsession but a social justice issue: people throughout society want to marry but the cultural and financial barriers faced by those in the poorest communities thwart their aspirations."
The report features "league tables" showing the parts of the country (Lower Layer Super Output Areas, which have an average population of 1,614) where fatherless and lone parent households are most prevalent.
The report also highlights the cost to the taxpayer of increasing rates of family breakdown. The total cost is estimated at £46 billion a year or £1541 for every taxpayer in the country. This figure has risen by nearly a quarter in the last four years and on current trends, the cost of family breakdown is projected to hit £49 billion by the end of this Parliament.
The research also finds that it is the instability of cohabiting couples rather than a surge in divorce rates that is fuelling the disintegration of the UK family. Since 1996, the number of people cohabiting has doubled to nearly 6 million.
Cohabiting parents are three times more likely to separate by the time a child is aged five than married couples, the report states.
Responding to the report, Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said:
"This report paints a melodramatic picture which is far from the reality of modern British family life. The facts are that single parent families make up one in four households with children – a proportion that has barely changed in over a decade – and the vast majority of children in single parent households grow up perfectly well.
"Digging behind the headlines, the data shows that only 0.7 per cent of areas have more than 50 per cent of households headed by a single parent – hardly a 'tsunami of family breakdown'. Although two-thirds of children have regular contact with both parents after separation, we share the concern that too many children don't get either the emotional or financial support they deserve from the parent they're not living with, and would like to see government take more steps to encourage both parents to maintain responsibility after separation.
"The biggest risk facing children growing up today is poverty, which costs us £29 billion each year, yet the IFS forecasts child poverty will rise significantly over the next decade. The government's priority must be in tackling child poverty and ensuring that all children grow up with the financial means necessary to have the best chance in life."