Fewer children living in broken families


Figures released last week by the Department for Work and Pensions have shown that 250,000 more children were living with both parents in 2012 compared to 2011.

Proportionally, this represents a rise, from 67 per cent in 2010-2011, to 69 per cent in 2011-2012.

The number of stable two parent households is rising faster among families with lower incomes, with the DWP reporting that 45 per cent of children fell into this group in 2010-2011, compared to 48 per cent in 2011-2012.

The DWP praised these figures, saying in a statement: "Children growing up in unstable families, particularly those experiencing multiple family transitions, are at higher risk of developing social disadvantage in later life, such as issues with mental health, drug and alcohol abuse and lower educational attainment."

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, said: "When families are strong and stable the children tend to have better life chances.

"That's why this government has taken action to support families and thereby give children the best start in life."

The DWP has increased tax breaks for married couples and through its Troubled Families Programme, is investing £448 million to support local authorities to help families in difficulties.

The head of the Centre for Social Justice, Christian Guy, welcomed these figures, saying they showed that family breakdown "is not inevitable" and "can be reversed".

"Despite its eye-watering human and economic costs, many politicians have assumed there is nothing they can do to stem the tide of rising instability in homes," Mr Guy said.

Speaking about the accelerated increase in family stability among lower income families, Mr Guy said: "Given how the poorest neighbourhoods feel the effects of breakdown most acutely, it is particularly encouraging to see an increase in the number of children from low-income households living with both parents. This can improve our children's life chances immeasurably."

This area has been a key concern of the CSJ for a number of years. In a 2007 landmark study entitled "Breakthrough Britain" the CSJ detailed 190 evidence-based anti-poverty policies.

It was such a groundbreaking piece of work that it was awarded Publication of the Year by Prospect Magazine in 2008.

Mr Guy issued a challenge to members of the political establishment in Westminster, calling on them to view these figures as proof that government action can work.  It is calling for more focus on policy aimed at increasing the number of stable two parent families.

"With a year until a general election, all political parties should be busy drawing up bold plans for family stability," Mr Guy argued.  "These figures should give them a boost."