Welfare minister Lord Freud has spoken out about the true cost of divorce and family breakdown in Britain being “far higher” and “far deeper” than the multi-billion pound benefits bill, in an article on The Daily Telegraph.
He said that government has a ‘clear duty’ to strengthen families. According to Lord Freud the current £9 billion cost to the taxpayer of lone parent benefits is just the tip of the iceberg and the full social cost of separation should be taken into account.
Lord Freud pointed to a study by the think-tank Relationships Foundation estimating that family breakdown in the UK currently costs the public purse £46 billion a year – or £1,541 for every taxpayer.
The estimated cost of family breakdown includes spending on children in care and a proportion of the costs of the health, education and criminal justice systems. A series of studies have linked family breakdown with children failing at school, becoming unemployed, getting involved in crime and suffering mental health problems.
Speaking on the topic in the Lords, he also said that the government should actively attempt to reverse the “major structural changes” in society which lead away from marriage and towards cohabitation.
He also called for marriage to be “put back into its rightful place” as unmarried parents are four times as likely to separate than those who tie the know. The Coalition should make “no apology” for saying that it has a “clear duty” to strengthen the family, he said.
“It would be easy to put a financial cost to society from family breakdown, but the social cost is far higher and its impacts far deeper,” he explained in his Telegraph article.
“On the face of it, we pay around £8.4 billion annually to lone parents in benefits and around £500 million a year running the Child Support Agency that administers more than a million child support cases. There are an estimated 2.5 million separated families with 4.1 million children – and one million lone parents claiming Housing Benefit in the current financial year”.
Later this year the government will be publishing the findings from the cross government Family Stability Review – to help understand family formation, stability and breakdown and where investment is needed to further tackle this problem.