Cost of Family Failure Index

Cost of Family Failure 2016: £48 billion – and still rising

The 2016 update of the Relationships Foundation’s “Cost of Family Failure Index” shows that the cost of family breakdown to the taxpayer has increased again – to £48 billion, costing each taxpayer around £1,820 a year. While we are now beginning to see the impact of cuts in spending on the figures (put very simply, if government chooses to spend less on picking up the pieces of family failure the rising costs will slow down), taxpayers continue to shoulder a huge, and still growing, financial burden when families fail.

The Index must always be seen, of course, in the context of the emotional toll on individuals, families and the wider society terms of the often intense pain and suffering felt by those experiencing family failure – the broken hearts and the broken dreams. What the Index shows is that, alongside this terrible human cost, there is also an enormous financial cost to the taxpayer who has to pick up the pieces.

The “Cost of Family Failure Index” was first produced as part of a Relationships Foundation pamphlet When Relationships Go Right/When Relationships Go Wrong in 2009. We presented our material in such a way because our aim was not only to confront the extent of failure but also to suggest how to move towards solutions. So, When Relationships Go Wrong carried the subtitle “counting the cost of family failure” while When Relationships Go Right was concerned with “enabling thriving lives”. The Relationships Foundation has never been in the business of spreading doom and gloom, but neither are we naive. There is a cost to relationship
breakdown and it is large – currently £48 billion (up from £37 billion when the exercise began in 2009).

The huge charge of family breakdown falls to the public purse. We argue that only when this cost is taken seriously will people recognise how important relationships are to general wellbeing and happiness. Family breakdown reduces
health, wealth and wellbeing – the three things in which people are most interested. Reduced health, wealth and wellbeing all put pressure on relationships, thus reinforcing and perpetuating the vicious circle of breakdown. Very quickly people see that this is more than economics: we always need to set the economic cost in the much broader personal and social context of the often intense pain and suffering felt by those experiencing family failure, especially when there are children involved. With children now only having a 50:50 chance of living with both birth parents by the time they are 16 the scale and extent of the emotional costs should not be underestimated.

Read the press release here.