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Home / Latest News / Cardiff home to some of the highest rates of single-mother households in England and Wales

Cardiff home to some of the highest rates of single-mother households in England and Wales

Cardiff is home to two of the 10 areas in Wales and England that are most heavily populated by single-mother households, according to a new report.

There is no father present in 59% of dependent-children households in Ely and Trowbridge, found the research, with an increasing number in the Welsh capital growing up in “men deserts”.

The report also reveals that 62% of households in the Trowbridge area of Cardiff are headed by a lone parent, putting the area in the top 20 of the highest rates for single households in England and Wales.

The statistics make up a wider startling picture that shows around one million children across the two nations grow up with no contact from their father.

The report, published by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), states the high break-up rates among cohabiting couples are driving up the numbers of lone parents, with levels increasing by almost a quarter between 1996 and 2012.

The CSJ report also links the lack of a father figure to higher rates of teenage crime, pregnancy and disadvantage and says the absence of male role models goes as far as schooling – with one in four primary schools across Wales and England having no male teacher and 80% having fewer than three.

Trowbridge councillor Ralph Cook said he was sceptical of the figures and sees plenty of father figures in his electoral division, even if they are not officially living with the mother.

But the deputy leader of the council conceded that even a father drifting in and out of a child’s life could cause problems.

He said: “Children benefit from stability in their family relationships. That sort of existence – officially they’re not there but actually they are – that’s not going to be good for anyone. I have to say though I was in care when I was a child and I rose above it. But I think in general a lack of stability in the family home is not a good thing.”

Ely councillor Russell Goodway said he was “not surprised” by the figures but said it was as a result of government policy over the past 30 years when it came to social housing, rather than people in Ely showing a particular tendency for broken families.

He said: “It’s not a reflection on the community; it’s a reflection on the allocation system working alongside where the properties are.

“These young mothers who find themselves in this predicament apply for housing and get told the only properties available are in Ely and Trowbridge. To that extent, we need more houses to live in and we need more of a mix of housing across the city.”

Mr Goodway said the location of social housing meant single mothers from across the city had ended up being isolated in these particular communities, simply because that was where the available housing was.

He said: “Don’t for one minute conclude that these people are Ely people. These people come from all over the city and elsewhere but that’s where the council has got to place those people because of where the social housing is.”

The Labour councillor called the situation “sad” and said there were “too many families in this country that do not have access to a father”.

“To that extent I think that children are growing up with an unbalanced and unrepresented world,” he added.

Ely councillor Susan Goddard said the financial troubles facing single parents often made it more difficult, but raising a child alone should not be seen as a stigma.

She said: “There are many reasons why people are single: people get divorces; people don’t have a proper relationship in the first instance. We can’t make people get married.”

Reflecting on the report, CSJ director Christian Guy has warned of the “tsunami” of family breakdown battering the country.

He said: “For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom. This is an ignored form of deprivation that can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development.

“There are ‘men deserts’ in many parts of our towns and cities and we urgently need to wake up to what is going wrong.”

But Fiona Weir, chief executive of single parent support charity Gingerbread, said the CSJ report painted a “melodramatic picture” which was “far from the reality of modern British family life”.

She said: “The facts are that single-parent families make up one in four households with children – a proportion that has barely changed in over a decade – and the vast majority of children in single-parent households grow up perfectly well,” she said.

“Digging behind the headlines, the data shows that only 0.7% of areas have more than 50% of households headed by a single parent – hardly a ‘tsunami of family breakdown’. Although two-thirds of children have regular contact with both parents after separation, we share the concern that too many children don’t get either the emotional or financial support they deserve from the parent they’re not living with, and would like to see the Government take more steps to encourage both parents to maintain responsibility after separation.”

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