Where have all the men gone?

12 June 2013

OPINION: According to the Centre for Social Justice, the think tank established by Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith MP, the UK is a land of "men deserts". There are, apparently, towns and cities where your chances of encountering a Y chromosome are slim to none. 

At the beginning of this week, the CSJ circulated a press release in which it warned that around one million children are growing up without contact with their father and many "have no role model in sight". The press release was a teaser for a new report, 'Fractured Families: why stability matters'.

We wanted to to find out more about how the CSJ had conducted its research. Think-tanks, like our print press, often bring a certain political perspective to the evidence. But, while the CSJ has promoted its "major new report", it hasn't yet published it. And it's not enough to leave a trail of crumbs that leads nowhere. 

The media duly repeated the CSJ's warning of "the 'tsunami' of family breakdown battering the country". There was widespread coverage of the claims in the CSJ release, which include:

- "Lone parent families are increasing at a rate of more than 20,000 a year and will total more than two million by the time of the next election";

- "Across England and Wales, one in four primary schools has no male teacher and 80 per cent have fewer than three";

- "Father absence is linked to higher rates of teenage crime, pregnancy and disadvantage".

The press release states that the report is due out this week. Our efforts to squeeze out a more specific date from the press office were unsuccessful. 

But there are yet more pressing questions: why not release the report at the same time as you publicise it? Why not allow the media and the public to see the evidence?

Showing your evidence should be a condition of joining the debate. Not only is the CSJ willing to make these claims without the information to back them up, but the BBC waved them onto the airwaves with a Newsnight fanfare on Monday night. Still the public knows no more than it did on Sunday.

We're not alone in our concerns: the Daily Telegraph also picked up on the fact that the CSJ has not yet substantiated its bold headlines. Any debate on family breakdown needs to be an informed one, and neither the CSJ nor the BBC has enabled that this week.

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