At least one million children are growing up without a father, according to a think tank which describes the problem as “an ignored form of deprivation”.
The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) says parts of the country are “men deserts” because, as well as a lack of fathers, there are so few male primary school teachers.
It calls on David Cameron to back up his ‘family friendly’ promise, and describes as “feeble” the response from politicians of all parties on the issue.
According to the CSJ, fatherless households are linked to higher rates of teenage crime and pregnancy.
And it puts the cost to the taxpayer of family breakdown at around £46 billion a year.
Christian Guy, the group’s Director, warned that the lack of male role models “can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development”.
He criticised politicians, from all sides, for their response to the issue and commented: “Our political discourse about family policy must mature.
“Family breakdown is an urgent public health issue. Backing commitment and setting a goal of reducing instability does not equate to criticising or stigmatising lone parents or those involved.”
In a report the group also lays out ‘league tables’ on the issue – one of which shows the Riverside area of Liverpool has no father present in 65 per cent of households with dependent children.
The report, to be published this week, highlights David Cameron’s election promise to lead the “most family-friendly Government ever”.
But the think tank says “the family stability agenda” has hardly been mentioned while the Prime Minister has been in power.
Mr Guy comments: “For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom.
“This is an ignored form of deprivation that can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development.
“There are ‘men deserts’ in many parts of our towns and cities and we urgently need to wake up to what is going wrong.”