In September 2008, a poll showed that 63% of all those questioned agreed that British Society is broken. Two recent cases shed light on what is happening in parts of the country and how dysfunctional families are living. The first is the trial of Karen Mathews who is charged with kidnapping her own daughter and lying to the Police about it, and the second is the case of Baby P’s guardians who await sentencing for neglecting a child who subsequently died.
Within both families like many others, there was no stability in the home, with a constant stream of partners moving in and out of the family home. Children unfortunate enough to be caught up in this cycle have a biological father who is often absent and several non biological ‘fathers’ who they presumably call by their first names unable to develop any sort of parental relationship. There is often a dependency on drugs and alcohol by the adults and the needs of the children aren’t even recognised, let alone fulfilled. This inevitably leads to children being neglected and in worst case scenarios abused. The Government is left to pick up the pieces by finding foster homes and dealing with children with psychological problems which remain well until adulthood. Children’s educational attainment suffers and they are unable to break away from the cycle of state dependency and benefits which means that one generation after the next remain in this culture of broken homes and families. There are no aspirations and there is nothing except despondency and despair.
But is there any way out of this? The Government has been fiddling about with tax credits and schemes such as Sure Start with little success despite its claim to the contrary.
The answer according to Iain Duncan Smith MP is straightforward: If you want to save the child, you must save the family – strengthen the family unit and the child’s chances in life increase dramatically.
The Centre for Social Justice which Iain Duncan Smith set up has produced an interim report on changing Family Law aimed at strengthening marriage and reducing family breakdown. This comes behind a stream of other policy initiatives from the Centre for Social Justice, many of which have already been adopted as policy by David Cameron. Iain Duncan Smith argues that:
Today 25 per cent of children in this country live in single parent families and this trend is set to accelerate. These children are three to six times more likely to experience abuse. A recent US study found that children living with a non-biological adult are 50 times more likely to die from afflicted injuries than those living with their biological parents.”
And the Report notes
“This review is working from an underlying assumption that marriage should be supported both in government policy and in the law and that, related to this, fatherlessness (or motherlessness), far more likely when relationships are informal, should be avoided…”
“Marriage also acts as a stabiliser and a signal. Married couples are far less likely to break up than couples who live together without getting married. This is true even when allowance is made for the influence of such factors as income, age and education. The correlation between stability and marriage is strong and widely acknowledged amongst experts.”
Encourage and support marriage, and stabilise the home and family. It’s a simple and effective message that the Government should heed when implementing policies.