Dr Samantha Callan is Chairman-in-Residence, leading on Family, Early Years and Mental Health, at the Centre for Social Justice.
National Marriage Week, 7th-14th February, has brought not only the snow but also Professor Scott Stanley from the United States. His suitcase is bulging with data and insights from federally-funded programmes which are strengthening families and stabilising couple relationships. In and out of ministerial meetings and high-level seminars, he has been showing policy-makers and politicians how poverty has been driven back in those states that have taken a couple-focused approach.
Professor Stanley, from Denver University, says "The message we have to send to people struggling with the drivers of poverty, including worklessness, debt, poor education and health is that, when it comes to outcomes for children, your love life is not neutral." Conflicted, complicated relationships, often entered into quite hastily, can thwart all other efforts to get and hold down a job. In turn this makes it difficult to get financially straight and become the kind of parent you want to be by providing your children with security and safety.
The states that invested most heavily in helping married and unmarried couples to make their relationships work have seen significant increases in the numbers of children growing up with both parents, and decreases in the numbers of children living in poverty. The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has consistently and effectively argued, since early 2006, that outcomes for children tend to be better, across a whole range of measures, if they are raised by both their parents. There is no doubt that many single parents are doing a heroic job in the teeth of often significant adversity. But they would be the first to say that it is incredibly difficult to keep your head above water, financially and otherwise, when raising children more or less alone.