According to reports today, a study to be released by the Centre for Social Justice has found “67% of households in Lawrence Hill ward are run by a single parent”. Ashley ward meanwhile is an area “where 63% of households are single parent”, and just to make sure we understand the implications, it adds that the report warns that “father absence is linked to higher rates of teenage crime, pregnancy and disadvantage”.
These areas are, supposedly, “men deserts” – with more than 10,000 families without a father, street after street in places like St Paul’s, St Agnes, Stapleton Road and Easton Road.
The implication is clear – vast areas of Lawrence Hill and Ashley are almost entirely inhabited by single mum families, probably the cause of crime, almost certainly surviving off the state, and using pregnancy as way of getting ever more benefits at the expense of the hardworking taxpayer. These families are also almost certainly a major cause of the deprivation affecting both wards.
All of this because of the lack of a role model that only a man can provide. If you are one of those who believe all you hear about single mums on benefits unable to control their “feral” children then this might be worrying indeed.
Except that the claims are completely and utterly false.
The actual proportion of Lawrence Hill households that are lone parent families is about 17% of households. In Ashley it’s about 13%. When you only include single mothers with dependent children, who are the focus of the report, the percentages are 12% and 9% respectively.
The 67% and 63% figures are taken from the press release put out by the Centre for Social Justice to generate publicity for the launch of the report on Thursday.
However the release clearly states that rather than entire wards, the “report features ‘league tables’ for “Lower Layer Super Output Areas [LLSOA] which have an average population of 1,614”.
Thus the figure for Ashley is based on the St Paul’s – City Road LLSOA which accounts for just 537 households out of the 7152 households across Ashley, whilst the Lawrence Hill figures are for the Old Market and Temple Meads LLSOA which is just 713 households out of 8516.
Even this isn’t the full story because only 15% of the St Paul’s City Road households are headed by a lone parent, and only 6% of Old Market and Temple Meads households. The Old Market figure in particular is well below the average for Bristol and for England as a whole.
To get the figures of 63% and 67% reported you have to drill down to only those households with children, and eliminate all other households. In short you have to ignore up to 90% of households.
In St Paul’s City Road that leaves you with just 123 households, of which 77 are headed by lone parents and this is where the 63% figure comes from.
But even this figure is inaccurate, as almost 20% of the single parents struggling to bring up their families in this neighbourhood are, in fact, men.
The Centre for Social Justice is only concerned about the lack of male role models, not the lack of female role models.
Meanwhile, in Old Market and Temple Meads, of the 54 households (out of 713) that have dependent children, 36 are headed by lone parents (thus the 67% claim). Of these 36 families, a grand total of 31 are headed by a single mum.
In short, 95% of households in the Old Market and Temple Meads area are NOT headed by single mothers.
Yet the implication is that these 31 single mothers are somehow at fault for its crime and deprivation levels, despite the fact that more than half of those women not only work hard to bring up a family but also go out and work, most of them in full-time jobs.
Blaming the ills of deprived neighbourhoods on a tiny number of single mums trying to bring their kids up as best they can – all the while bearing the brunt of benefit cuts implemented by the same Iain Duncan-Smith who set up the Centre for Social Justice – is nothing short of shameful.
These single mums, often bringing up a family AND holding down a job, ARE role models. They deserve our support, not our condemnation.