Politics: It's hard being a parent - Straw

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The Independent Online
Family life was put to the top of the agenda yesterday as the Home Secretary spoke of the difficulties of being a parent, and health minister Tessa Jowell said the Government was committed to helping lone parents. Glenda Cooper, Social Affairs Correspondent, reports.

The Government is committed to maintaining family life as a core of society, Jack Straw told a London conference yesterday.

Mr Straw, whose son was cautioned by police this month for selling cannabis, said being a parent was a difficult job. He was speaking at the Pre-School Learning Alliance conference

"As a parent of two teenage children, and as a school parent-governor, I know only too well the difficulties and problems." he added. "All of us know how challenging being a parent can be."

His fellow minister, Tessa Jowell, speaking at the the Parenting and Education Support Forum, said while a two-parent family was an ideal, the Government was committed to helping lone parents out of poverty.

As the ministers were speaking, the Office for National Statistics released new figures showing the number of children living in one parent families increased by a third between 1990-5. One in five children now come from such a family.

As a result, said Ms Jowell, the Government must develop practical policies to help families out of the "cycles of dependency and poverty".

Professor Heather Joshi, of the social statistics research unit at City University, looked at 2,300 people born in 1958. She told the Forum that while 20 per cent of "intact" families lived in social housing, more than half of lone parents did. And whereas very few intact families did not have one wage earner, 40 per cent of lone parent families had no one with a job.

She found that when social and economic circumstances were accounted for, children from broken homes did not do significantly worse than children living with their mother and father.