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

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From Mr Richard Best

Sir: Coverage - including your own - of the Church of England's working party on family life has highlighted its views on the rise of cohabitation. This risks underplaying the wider significance of the report.

What should be welcome to all those seeking a considered approach to changing family life is the report's level-headed refusal to exaggerate or to abandon thoughtful analysis in favour of moral panic. Like the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's recent report on Family and Parenthood, by David Utting, it recognises the stresses that relative poverty, unstable employment and poor housing conditions place on families, compounding the difficulties of being a "good enough" parent. Its findings also underline the fact that loud political rhetoric in praise of families has scarcely been matched by deeds.

In a week when the Government's own figures demonstrate a dramatic rise between 1979 and 1993 in the number of children living in families whose net incomes are less than half the national average, it is good to find that the Church is prepared to register disquiet. The debate about how we should seek to underpin, not undermine, families is vital to the future of our society. It does not deserve to be drowned out by arid disputes about the definition of sin.




Joseph Rowntree Foundation


7 June