Last week Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, launched a new government paper entitled ‘Social Justice: transforming lives’. This report seeks to address the challenge of lifting families and individuals out of poverty in our country. It starts of by painting a picture of the current state of play and it doesn’t make for easy reading:
• There are currently around 3.9 million workless households in the UK. That is almost one in five of all households. (Workless households are households with at least one member who is aged 16 to 64 where no-one is currently working. The figure excludes student households.)
• Since 1996, the number of UK households where no-one has ever worked has more than doubled from 132,000 to 297,000 – 1.4 per cent of all households.
• There are 1.8 million children living in workless households.
• Evidence suggests that children tend to enjoy better life outcomes when the same two parents are able to give them support and protection throughout their childhood.
• 28 per cent of children in lone parent families live in relative poverty, compared with 17 per cent for couple families.
• Marriage rates have more than halved in the last 40 years, while the number of lone parent households increased by an average of 26,000 a year from the early 1980s to 2010.
• Attainment gaps persist between pupils from low-income families (those eligible for free school meals) and their peers through all stages of education, including entry into higher education.
• Children who are eligible for free school meals are around four times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion than children who are not eligible for free school meals.
• 40 per cent of newly sentenced prisoners said they had been permanently excluded from school and 46 per cent said they left school with no qualifications.
Drug and alcohol dependency
• It is estimated that there are 1.1 million dependent drinkers in England and close to 306,000 heroin and crack cocaine users in Britain.
• It is estimated that 80 per cent of users of heroin and crack cocaine in England are on working age benefits.
• The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has estimated that there are between 200,000 and 300,000 children in England and Wales where one or both parents have serious drug problems.
• Heroin users are 17 times more likely to die prematurely than the general population – from factors including injury and violent crime as well as their drug use.
• In 2009, it was estimated that around 10 per cent of all households had arrears in one or more of their financial commitments.
• 36,200 properties were repossessed in 2011.
• In 2006, BIS estimated that there were approximately 165,000 households using illegal money lenders in the UK; this represents 6 per cent of households in our most deprived areas.
• In a survey of prisoners’ backgrounds in 2010, 37 per cent of prisoners reported having a family member with a conviction for a non motoring criminal offence.
• 53 per cent of prisoners did not grow up in a household with both natural parents.
• 24 per cent of prisoners stated that they were taken into care.
I’ll cover the Government’s proposals to tackle all of this in another post, but to be honest looking at the figures, it’s hard to imagine how the Government can change this just by law. This is a hugely complex problem that without fundamental shifts in attitudes and values is unlikely to ever be solved. In fact I would say it is impossible to solve. The glib answer is to say that if everyone started living by God’s laws, everything would sort itself out. It might be a simplistic answer but there is a whole lot of truth in it. Maybe the real question is, ‘Can we ever see restoration in our nation if we leave God out of the equation?’