Uniquely among Westminster think tanks, the Centre for Social Justice focuses on strengthening the family as a key preventive strategy
The family is our first stop for caring, nursing and counselling. It promotes a sense of belonging and offers protection. A stable family reduces the chances of becoming homeless, or getting in trouble with the police, or even ending up in jail. Positive parenting affects children more than parental income or parents’ educational qualifications.
A stable family affects health outcomes too. Among 5-10 year olds, 6 per cent of children with married parents experienced diagnosable mental health issues compared to 12 per cent children with cohabiting parents and 18 per cent of children raised by a lone parent. Among 11-16 year olds, the difference is starker still. 12% of children with married parents vs 27 per cent of children raised by a lone parent experienced mental disorder.
(Source: ONS, per cent of children with a mental disorder by marital status and age group, England, 2017)
A greater understanding of the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and of genetic and epigenetic processes, present an opportunity to identify needs before they escalate into crisis. The CSJ already can take credit for the roll-out of Family Hubs, a concept introduced in “Breakthrough Britain” in 2007, whereby local services meet families’ needs, from debt advice to couple counselling, before they require expensive and extensive interventions.
The first 1,001 days for children’s development and well-being are highly significant. We campaign for all children to have the best start in life. At present, they don’t. Since the publication of our landmark report, ‘Breakdown Britain’ (2006) the CSJ has continued to highlight the “marriage gap” between the top and bottom quintile of the population. By the age of 5 almost half of children in the most disadvantaged areas have seen their families break up, compared to only 16 per cent of children in middle-class homes. 1-in-5 children grow up in a home without a father figure. We aim to design and advocate policies that promote responsible fatherhood, reduce parental conflict, and engage the most hard to reach parents with their children’s development.
The state can never replace the family – but it can support it. Our Unit shows how.