Family Matters Institute » Research Publications » The Cost of Family Breakdown
The Cost of Family Breakdown

The family in Britain is in crisis. This acknowledged by commentators across the political and social spectrum. Family breakdown is widespread. Few people do not know someone whose family has been affected by separation, divorce, cohabitation or single parenthood. The whole of society is affected by the social consequenes of family breakdown. It impairs the health of the nation, reduces the educational
achievement of its children, increases the crime rate, places a burden on the national economy and a strain on social relationships at all levels.

Recent research has led many social scientists to conclude that family breakdown itself is a root cause of many of todays social ills. They believe that the principal cause of declining child well being is family breakdown, specifically the break up of the mother-father child-raising unit.

There were 145,000 divoorces in Britain in 1998, affecting just over 150,000 children. Each failed relationship produces pain and emtional hurt, creating an incalculable cost in human misery. But how many of us have given thought to the huge financial costs, incurred not only by the individuals concerned, but also by local communities, by the taxpayer, and by society as a whole? Public money spent tackling the social problems caused by family breakdown could otherwise fund creative soical projects which strengthen family life and national unity.

Earlier research has quantified the costs of family breakdown in the range £4 billion to £10 billion. This report concludes that these previous estimates significantly understate the actual cost of family breakdown, and estimates that the direct annual costs are nearer to £15 billion, and rising. With indirect costs, the total is much more, quite possibly double that.

The direct costs of family breakdown cost each of the UK's 262 million tax payers an average of £11 per week. Direct costs of £15 billion equate with about one third of government expenditure on education, just over a quarter of what it spends on the NHS, or almost exactly the combined totals it spends on industry, agriculture and employment, or on housing and the environment.

If the current trend is to be reversed , many agencies will need to be involved. This report makes a number of recommendations, many of which could be implemented by the government . But ultimately the state of the family in Britain will not improve unless people themselves desire change. A first step towards strengthening family life and protecting children has to be the recognition of the effects of family breakdown, its cost, both financially and in human suffering.

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