Family structure collapsing in London: Third of children are living with lone parent

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The Independent Online
NEARLY a third of the half million children in inner London come from lone-parent families, according to the latest 1991 census data issued this week by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys.

In Lambeth, 41.6 per cent of children have single parents, as do more than a third in Southwark, Islington, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hackney, and Lewisham.

Although the figures build on a long-term trend, they will worry politicians, and that concern will be aggravated by data showing that parts of the capital are vying with Britain's worst unemployment blackspots.

The figures, obtained exclusively by the Independent, show Hackney had more people out of work or on government schemes - a quarter of the economically active population - than Knowsley on Merseyside.

Frank Dobson, Labour's employment spokesman and an inner London MP, said last night: 'Unless something is done quickly and effectively, many parts of inner London could become breeding grounds for social forces that could undermine British society as a whole.

'A third of the children in inner London come from families where there is no wage-earner, and in two-thirds of single-parent families there is no wage-earner. It makes it impossible to give most of these children a decent start in life.'

The census returns show 32.6 per cent of children in inner London come from single-parent families; the figure for Liverpool is 32.7 per cent.

The last OPCS General Household Survey, reported in Social Trends last January, said the proportion of children from lone-parent families had more than doubled since 1972, to reach 18 per cent by 1991.

That survey was based on fewer than 10,000 households in Britain - a tenth of the inner London sample used for the census. But the inner London data shows dramatic magnification of other national trends - high concentrations of people living alone, and a relative collapse of the traditional family; a married couple with dependent children.

While Social Trends said the proportion of people living alone had more than doubled in 30 years, to 26 per cent of all households in 1991, the census shows all inner London boroughs exceed that figure. More than 47 per cent of all households in Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster were in single occupation; more than 40 per cent in Camden, and Hammersmith and Fulham.

Capital decline, page 2