The Centre claims there are currently 236 areas across England and Wales where than 50 per cent of households consist of single mothers and their children. Riverside, an area of Liverpool, tops the national list, with 65 per cent of homes consisting of single mothers living with children.
The effect is worsened by the rarity of male primary school teachers, claims the report, entitled Fractured Families: why stability matters. Eighty per cent of primary schools have less than three male teachers and a quarter have none at all.
Centre for Social Justice Executive Director Christian Guy said:
“For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom. This is an ignored form of deprivation that can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development. There are ‘men deserts’ in many parts of our towns and cities and we urgently need to wake up to what is going wrong.”
Father absence is associated with higher levels of teenage pregnancy and youth crime, the report claims.
Single parent families are increasing by 20,000 a year, the report claims, and could reach two million by spring 2015 when the next general election is due to be held. Approximately three million children now live in such families.
Mr Guy accused politicians of ‘paralysis’ over the issue.
“Some argue that it is no business of politicians to meddle in the personal family choices people make. Others suggest that rising family breakdown is just a modern process, an inevitable trait of human advancement. Others say family instability doesn’t matter. This has to change. Our political discourse about family policy must mature. 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.”
Fractured Families calls for the introduction of practical measures to encourage marriage, such as ‘transferable tax allowances’. These would allow married couples to transfer part of their entitlement to a proportion of tax free salary to their partners if one is not earning.
hoto by Camilla Nilsson via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence