Our annual “Cost of Family Failure Index” continues to receive widespread attention. Most notably it was used by the Department for Education in their evaluation of the cost effectiveness of relationship support services including those provided by Relate and Marriage Care.
We began the exercise in 2009 (when we estimated the cost to be £37 billion) to show the huge charge of family breakdown 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 and 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.
We can now announce that the updated figures for 2014 remains very high – at £46 billion. This is the same as last year’s figure and shows that failed relationships cost each current UK taxpayer over £1,500 a year. We are now beginning to see the impact of cuts in spending on the figures: put very simply if you spend less on picking up the pieces the cost will go down. Despite living in an era of austerity, brought about initially by the recession and now a slowly recovering economy, and in the face of deep public spending cuts, taxpayers continue to shoulder a huge financial burden when families fail.