Broken-up Britain? UK epidemic of separated families

(Reuters / Peter Macdiarmid)
Research by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that the UK has one of the highest rates of family breakdown in the western world and that only 69% of children live with their mother and father.

The UK came only behind Belgium, Estonia and Latvia for broken homes and well below the average for OECD countries of 84%. The analysis looked at the living arrangements of children between the ages of 0-14 in 30 OECD member countries, it was reported in the UK media.

The worst country for broken families was Latvia with just 64.9% of children living with both parents. Finland had the most children living with both their mother and father at 95.2%. Italy stood at 92%, with Germany at 82%, and the US ahead of Britain on 70.7%.

The statistics also showed that the number of kids in the UK living with just their mother was 27.6%, while children living with their father was just 2.4%.  

Christian Guy from the Centre for Social Justice explained that the figures were a depressing wake up call for UK politicians.

“Timid politicians are becoming numb to Britain’s sky-high family breakdown rates. Behind too many front doors, instability damages adults and children. Yet, as these OECD figures show, broken families are not some inevitable feature of modern society or social progress.”

The Marriage Foundation, a pro-marriage campaign group, said that the figures reflected an “appalling epidemic of family breakdown.”

“The latest UK data tells us that 450 out of 1000 children will experience the break-up of their parents before their 16th Birthday, largely as a result of the trend away from marriage, in particular the collapse away from unmarried families,” said Harry Benson, the Marriage Foundation’s communications director.

He continued that the figures should “convince politicians of all colors of their utter failure to deal with the central social problem of our times.”

He said that family breakdowns cost the government £44 billion ($71 billion) a year but yet they have no policy to reduce or prevent the continued rise of families breaking up.

But Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said the government has invested £30 million in relationship support to prevent family breakdown.      

“Across government we’re working to improve the support available for families who experience abuse at home by more effectively punishing the perpetrator and doing more to educate young people about domestic violence,” he said.

In May this year the Centre for Social Justice, a think tank run by Iain Duncan Smith, found that the coalition government was failing to deal with the “tragic breakdown of family life.”

It also found that the welfare system penalized couples.  Overall the report gave the collation 4 out of 10 for measures to “reverse family breakdown” and just 2 out of 10 for their approach to the voluntary and community sector.