Divorce costs each taxpayer '£11 a week'

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The Independent Online

Divorce and family breakdown costs the British taxpayer more than £15bn a year and is rising at such a fast rate that society will soon no longer be able to afford it, a report from a Christian family charity says today.

Divorce and family breakdown costs the British taxpayer more than £15bn a year and is rising at such a fast rate that society will soon no longer be able to afford it, a report from a Christian family charity says today.

Each year, there are some 145,000 divorces that affect about 150,000 children. Four marriages in 10 now end in divorce. The huge financial costs to society of rebuilding adults' and children's lives includes extra spending on social security benefits, legal aid, child psychology services and additional health requirements. The direct cost for Britain's 26.2 million taxpayers is an average of £11 per week, the report says.

The latest figure is three times that estimated by the Lord Chancellor's Department last year, as it also includes the costs of children having problems with school, lost productivity, and the criminal and health consequences of divorce.

The report - commissioned by the Lords and Commons Family and Child Protection Group - will be presented at a conference in London today. It says the cost to the public purse of disrupted families has risen to a record high, and the authors estimate that the true cost - including indirect costs - could be as high as £30bn.

The research was conducted by Family Matters, a Christian organisation, the aims of which include: "Enabling churches to forge positive links with local family-support professionals - so that they can be encouraged to refer their clients to church-run courses."

David Lindsay, co-author of the report, said: "Family breakdown impairs the health of the nation, reduces the educational achievement of children, increases the crime rate, places a burden on the national economy and a strain on social relationships at all levels.

"The cost is rising and the Government needs to establish ways of supporting marriage and family life, to prevent the costs being too high for society.

"Our purpose is not to moralise but to highlight the massive financial and social costs which society at large is paying and which show no signs of diminishing."

The report states: "Half of young offenders come from broken homes, they also perform badly at school, are less likely to go on to further education and more likely to getlow-paid jobs."

The report recommends an end to no-fault divorce for parents with children under 18, pre-marital counselling and reintroducing the tax breaks once enjoyed by married couples. "The churches need to give a clear, unambiguous lead," it said. "What is needed, above all, is a cultural change at grassroots level, which acknowledges that the traditional family is the very foundation of a stable, prosperous and caring society."

The Government has said itfavours marriage but has stopped short of encouraging people to wed.

Family charities said that the Government needed to do more to support people's relationships and families that were experiencing problems.

"The costs of family strife and breakdown are very high and we are not honest enough in talking about the costs," said Ceridwen Roberts, director of the Family Policy Studies Institute.

"There is no simple solution to increasing people's capacity to manage their relationships satisfactory. While the Government has taken some steps to increasing marriage and relationship support, more still needs to be done."

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