Break-up of the family is a social disaster we cannot ignore

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From Sir Fred Catherwood

Sir: Polly Toynbee is entitled to her bit of fun with the Church of England ("No more living in sin, and that's official", 7 June), and it can answer for itself. But the break-up of the family cannot be dismissed as an unfortunate side-blow against the few, not to be counted in the balance against the new sexual freedom.

In the past 18 months, I have visited over 20 cities to see what the churches are doing to meet a moral and social disaster on a scale which this country has never had to face before. Ninety per cent of those left holding the baby are the mothers and not all of them can cope. In one big housing estate, the city missioner told us that 500 children had been taken into care in one year. No wonder councils cannot supervise the carers. On the same estate, all the bottom windows of the junior school had been smashed and the caretaker's house was shuttered, deserted after he had been mugged for the third time.

Everywhere we've been there are teenage boys, homeless because their mother had to choose between a stroppy teenager and her new man. A teacher in Swindon told us of a boy who had come to him that morning. His father had sent him back to his mother, but she didn't want him, so "Where do I go tonight?"

We are bringing up an unloved and unwanted generation, unhappy, resentful and owing us nothing. Many of the big city estates are no-go areas for the police. If and when there is a backlash against the permissive society, these will be the storm-troopers. Meanwhile, they occupy themselves in petty crime, the old and weak keep their doors locked and women do not walk alone at night.

Polly Toynbee does not have to go back to Moses for a stable family; we only have to go back 30 years, when the rise in divorce, in births outside marriage and in crime really took off. The family is important in every religion; what we have today is an unprecedented social experiment which is destabilising our whole society.

Yours sincerely,


Evangelical Alliance

London, SE11

7 June