I got involved with the Centre for Social Justice’s Breakdown and Breakthrough Britain work in 2006/7 because of my long-held concerns about the level of family breakdown in this country. (Family breakdown includes father absence and badly functioning family relationships, as well as divorce and separation.)
The UK has one of the highest levels of family instability in the western world; record numbers of children are taken into state care every year; and over a million children have no meaningful contact with their fathers. Family breakdown profoundly affects social mobility and children’s life chances because it is a driver (and effect) of poverty and disadvantage.
My maiden speech on domestic abuse, homelessness and social exclusion highlighted the harmful ramifications of poorly functioning families in children and adults’ lives. (I was also a member of the Joint Scrutiny Committee of the Domestic Abuse Bill and involved in the progress of this Bill through the House.)
Children without reliable relationships are more likely to experience behavioural problems and underachieve at school. They have higher levels of smoking, drinking and other drug use and struggle to find a job. They also have poorer physical and mental health and are more likely to become a parent at an early age. Fewer than half of the people in our prisons grew up with both their parents, a quarter of then spent time in care and almost a third suffered abuse.
The cost of family breakdown has been conservatively set at £51bn, but this is most likely a fraction of the real total, not least because of its effect on the economy and productivity. Read my speech outlining at the Conservative Party Conference here.