Suffolk: Changing face of family life revealed as number of single parents soars by more than 30% in a decade

Councillors at four local authorities in Essex claimed almost �3m in allowances and expenses in 2012

Councillors at four local authorities in Essex claimed almost �3m in allowances and expenses in 2012/13 - Credit: PA

The changing face of family life in Suffolk can today be revealed by the EADT, with the number of single parents having soared by more than 30% in a decade.

The latest Office for National Statistics figures (ONS) show there was a 20% rise in the number of lone parents with dependent children between 2001 and 2011 in England – compared to the 31% surge in Suffolk in the same period.

There are now 18,309 single parent households with dependent children, the Suffolk Safeguarding Children Board 2012/13 annual report said. This represents 5.9% of all households in the county.

The figures suggest inner-city life is encroaching on rural areas such as Suffolk, warned Siobhan Freegard, founder of parenting website

She said: “Society is changing very fast and what was commonplace in the inner cities a decade ago is now reaching out to more rural and traditional areas.

“But while the figures may seem very high, it may also reflect a desire by lone parents to move to the area when their relationships break up in order to be close to family or give their child a better environment to grow up in than some other parts of the UK.”

In Ipswich, there are 4,305 lone-parent households, with 3,906 of these single mothers. Four in every five of all lone parents in the town are not in full-time employment, while 1,831 (43%) do not work at all.

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Across Suffolk, 13,444 (74%) lone parents are not in full-time work and 6,478 (36%) are unemployed.

It follows a survey by the ONS published in March which highlighted a decline in the popularity of marriage in the UK.

The research showed the proportion of single women aged 18 to 49 who have never married has doubled, up from just 18% in 1979 to 43% in 2011.

It also revealed the proportion of women of the same age who live with a partner, but are not married, has tripled from just 11% to 34%.

This “breakdown” of traditional family life shows that children are not being taught the “traditional values of marriage” at school, according to one pro-family campaigner.

Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said: “It’s a tragedy. Marriage is the best foundation on which to bring children in to the world. Research always backs that up.

“But we can’t be surprised. The institution of marriage is being assaulted. We have got a divorce on demand society.

“We must discourage children from that but they are not being taught this at school. Sex education needs improving.”

His remarks come after the Child Poverty Action Group found in July it now costs £148,000 to bring up a child to the age of 18, while a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report said the cost of essential goods and services has rocketed by 25% in the past five years.

Rebecca Griffin, head of campaigns at charity Family and Childcare Trust, called for urgent action to tackle rising childcare costs to curb the “danger” of an increase in the number of single parents who are unemployed or underemployed “because they simply cannot afford to work”.

She said: “Government proposals to introduce new financial support for childcare, worth up to £1,200 every year per child for working parents, will not be available to single parents who are not working or receiving other benefits.”