1. ITV Report

Tonight: Kids Without Dads

Family matters? Recent research has shown that the number of lone parent families is on the rise in UK with over 1 million children living without any formal contact with their father.

In certain areas of the country, young people are more likely to have a mobile phone in their pocket than a dad.

On the Tonight programme – today at 7.30pm on ITV – Fiona Foster travels up and down the country to find out about the impact of family breakdown and father absence.

The UK rates as one of the top three countries in Europe with the highest number of single mums. Figures show that 2.8 million children live with their mother as the sole parent.

Kadie and Marley, one of an increasing number of families where the father is absent Credit: ITV / Tonight

Kadie had her son Marley when she was 18 and is no stranger to going it alone. Aware of the stigmatisation of young, single mothers, Kadie has challenged the stereotype, putting herself through college whilst being both mum and dad to Marley.

It’s not just single mums who get bad press. Billy McGranaghan who runs a single dads support network, Dads House, feels that single fathers are excluded by the system, often left with little support despite their best efforts to be in their children's lives.

By updating the Children and Families Bill and investing more money in supporting some of Britain’s most troubled families, the government claims that the commitment is there to tackle family breakdown.

In some of the poorest parts of the country, research has shown a vacuum of male role models. In areas referred to as ‘man deserts’, many children across the country have no positive male influence in their lives. Figures suggest this leads to further social and economic decline, putting a hefty strain on the public purse.

Schools are an obvious place to look for positive male role models but only a quarter of the total number of teachers in early years education are male. Nevertheless, data shows that the number of male teachers is increasing.

There is no definitive rulebook to parenting but what came across loud and clear was that children’s needs should always come first for a healthier society.