UK – Counting the Cost of Family Failure: £46bn and still rising

The Relationships Foundation’s annual “Cost of Family Failure Index” is now widely quoted both in the UK and internationally.

The latest update shows that the breakdown of relationships continues to be a huge charge on the public purse and has risen to £46bn a year (equivalent to a cost of £1,541 per taxpayer).


Commenting, Michael Trend, Executive Director of the Foundation said:  “Next week’s budget will address the nation’s finances. It will consider how businesses can grow the economy. But the vital output of families will not be part of the accounts, nor the £46 billion cost of their failure which is unsustainable in any economic climate, let alone the current one. And the  continuing upward movement of the cost of family failure (up from £37bn in 2009) doesn’t even begin to take into account the often intense pain and suffering felt by those experiencing family failure – the broken hearts and the broken dreams. For example, it is simply not acceptable that, at present rates, only half the children born today are likely to live with both birth parents by the time they are 16.

“We need a balanced overall budget: an economic plus a social budget that assesses the health and strength of the relationships on which we depend, and which create huge costs when they go wrong. The government depends on families for improvements in education, health, social care, welfare and criminal justice. Yet it is still ignored by Number 10; there are no published plans and no reports on progress with regard to family policy.”

Initiatives such as the Troubled Families Programme or funding for relationships support are welcome. But all families have a vital role to play and need support. Our Family Pressure Gauge showed that families in the UK are among the most pressured in Europe – burdened with high housing costs, consumer debt, long working hours and weekend working, child care costs, and unhealthy pressures on their children.

“We want to see the government deliver on its stated ambition of applying a family test to all policy, an initiative that will need political will and courage at the centre but doesn’t need to add any cost to the country’s taxpayers.”

Michael Trend added: “While we once had high hopes that the government meant what it said when David Cameron claimed that it would be the ‘most family friendly country in Europe’ we now deplore the way the costs of family failure continue to increase and the importance of family policy to the government continues to decrease.

“From the start of this government we urged the Prime Minister to put family policy right at the heart of his government. In particular we warned against leaving responsibility for family policy to a junior level at the Department for Education which would, understandably, be much occupied by the government’s agenda for educational reform.

Inevitably, that’s what has happened. And it’s not only our view, as was seen when former ministers from the Department itself gave evidence to the Education Select Committee this January. One of them, Tim Loughton MP, said that for the reasons we predicted – what he called the “bulldozer that was the schools reform programme” – “there has been some neglect of children and families”; and, worse, “My great concern is that the children and families agenda has been greatly downgraded since the reshuffle.”


SOURCE: National Family Mediation

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