Wednesday March 10, 2010

Family Breakdown Costing UK £41 Billion a Year: Report

By Patrick B. Craine

CAMBRIDGE, U.K., March 9, 2010 ( – Family breakdown now costs Britain £41.7 billion per year, estimates the Relationships Foundation, a British-based think tank.

“It is an unpopular truth that choices have consequences and costs, and that these are not always borne by the choice-maker,” they write in a February report, entitled “Counting the Cost of Family Failure.”

The Foundation’s estimate includes £12.38 billion in tax credits and benefits, £4.27 billion in housing support, and £13.68 billion in health and social care. The authors report that their estimate works out to £1,350 a year per taxpayer.

“Breakdown reduces health, wealth and wellbeing – the three things people are most interested in,” they continue. “And reduced health, wealth and wellbeing all put pressure on relationships making the cycle of breakdown more likely to go on turning.”

They note that “there is no easy or short-term solution to relationships breakdown,” but insist that the current spending burden is “unsustainable.”

The cost is rising “rapidly,” say members of the think tank, who also emphasize that the figure “does not take into account the often intense pain and suffering felt by those experiencing family failure.” “When relationships break down the full costs are incalculable,” they add.

“Functioning families are key to learning, capacity building, acquiring skills and providing welfare,” states the groups report. “They provide social care and support worth £73 billion a year in the UK, and family businesses generate turnover in excess of £1 trillion, contributing £73 billion each year in tax.”

“Relationships cost a great deal more than money, but the escalating financial and broader emotional costs should motivate policy-makers to increase their support for relationships,” they continue.

In an op-ed for the Daily Mail at the end of January, columnist Melanie Phillips connected the breakdown of the family with the erosion of the institution of marriage in British society. “The disintegration of the family lies at the heart of the progressive breakdown of moral and social behaviour – and the erosion of marriage lies at the heart of that disintegration,” she argued.

The “fragile state” of marriage, she said, “is due to the fact that it has been systematically emptied of meaning.” She insisted that marriage needs legal and cultural protections and depends on the promotion of “faithfulness and chastity,” but instead, “for more than five decades, those laws and conventions have been systematically eroded or destroyed.”

She pointed in particular to the rise of no-fault divorce, the acceptance of sex outside marriage and cohabitation, and the encouragement by the state of extramarital child-rearing.

Along these lines, pro-family leaders have also highlighted the British government’s promotion of sex education in schools and homosexual unions as central to the degradation of marriage, as well as the rampant practice of abortion.

The Relationships Foundation urges policy-makers to “make informed choices in terms of public motivation, opportunity and support which will lead to more stable relationships, thriving lives and thereby reduce the costs of relationships failure.”

See the report ‘Counting the Cost of Family Failure’.

See related coverage:

Life and Family Activists Hold out Little Hope for Cameron-Led Conservative Government

UK Minister Admits Failure to Bring Down Teen Pregnancy Rate: Solution? More Sex-Ed


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