TORIES IN TURMOIL / Lone Parents: Report challenges views on crime and children

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The Independent Online
WARNINGS by ministers about the problems posed by the rising number of children in one-parent families are challenged today in an independent report.

The Family Policy Studies Centre questions some of the assumptions made under the Government's back to basics campaign about lone-parent families, which have doubled in the past two decades to more than 1.3 million.

Ministers have warned of the increased risk of children in one- parent families becoming involved in crime and low achievement at school, but the survey of children with lone parents found that how the child fared depended on the type of disruption suffered by the family, such as bereavement, divorce or the arrival of a step-father or mother.

The difference for children of widowed lone parents and two- parent families was often not very great, the report says.

It found that poorer than average outcomes were found for children from families disrupted by separation and divorce compared to intact families. But it says these differences may be reduced when account is taken of other relevant factors, such as family income.

'The report points out that disrupted and lone-parent families frequently have inadequate and insecure income. Limited financial resources may create practical difficulties for lone parents in caring adequately for their children and be a source of considerable stress,' the centre said.

Options recommended by the centre include parenthood and family life education, social and economic support for families such as help in preventing marital breakdown. The report will strengthen pressure from John Major on John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, to devote more of his budget to nursery school places, and the efforts by Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, to promote more Government support for lone parents, including the childcare allowance for low income families announced in the Budget.

Lone Parenthood and Family Disruption. The Outcomes for Children; Family Policy Studies Centre, 231 Baker Street, London NW1 6XE; pounds 8.95.

Polly Toynbee, page 16