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Government backs CSJ plan to strengthen fatherhood

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2015 from everyone at the Centre for Social Justice.

Parenting classes for fathers are to be launched in a bid to improve stability – after the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) revealed worrying levels of family breakdown.

In a recent report the CSJ showed the extent of family breakdown in the UK, revealing that 16-year-olds in Britain are now more likely to own a smartphone than they are to have a father living at home.

The Government cited this as a major concern and to react has announced pilot projects which will begin this year in areas with high rates of family breakdown.

Under the scheme, parenting classes - which will be tailored only for men - will be offered to complement the traditional ante-natal sessions attended by most couples. The Department for Work and Pensions said classes teaching about the importance of fatherhood should become the norm.

The story was covered by the Daily Mail. Dr Samantha Callan, Associate Director for families at the CSJ, also discussed the benefits of the policy on BBC 5 Live and LBC.

The CSJ was also part of a wider family debate last week, exploring the rights of cohabiting couples, compared to married couples. In a major Sunday Times feature, Samantha said that relationship education should begin at an early age, so that children are aware of ‘respect, equality and what commitment means’. She also argued that marriage has become almost the preserve of the middle class, at the expense of those lower down the socioeconomic spectrum.

Samantha also appeared in a Sunday Times debate on marriage and cohabitation, chaired by Radio 4's John Humphrys last week.

CSJ inspires new law to tackle domestic abuse

A new domestic abuse offence for "coercive control" – called for by the CSJ – has been announced by the Home Office.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said the new law would protect victims from extreme psychological and emotional abuse.

The maximum penalty for the new offence in England and Wales will be five years in prison and a fine.

Coercive and controlling behaviour can include the abuser preventing their victim from having friendships or hobbies, refusing them access to money and determining many aspects of their everyday life, such as when they are allowed to eat and sleep.

The CSJ first called for this in the report Beyond Violence, where it said domestic abuse covered more than violence between partners.

Samantha Callan said: “Coercive control is a form of mental torture that can destroy lives.

“Domestic abuse affects more than two million people every year – but for too long we have looked at the physical scars and not the mental ones.”

Read Beyond Violence here and a blog by Samantha here.

Prescriptions of painkiller linked to heroin addiction in USA soars in England, says CSJ

Prescriptions of a highly addictive painkiller which has been linked to tens of thousands of deaths in America have increased dramatically in England, CSJ analysis has shown.

The opioid painkiller oxycodone was prescribed more than a million times in England in 2013, up by more than a third from 788,607 four years earlier.

Oxycodone was initially prescribed by doctors for late stage cancer, but in recent years has been given for an increasing number of conditions.

The drug sparked concern in America 10 years ago after experts said some users became addicted to it before switching to heroin because the latter is easier, and cheaper, to obtain.

Vermont Governor Peter Shmulin said the use of the painkiller had “grown into a full-blown heroin crisis” in his state.

Oxycodone does have legitimate medical use, the CSJ acknowledged, but insisted the dramatic rise in prescriptions should be examined.

The story was covered exclusively by The Times and followed up by the Daily Mail.

CSJ highlights increase in police incidents involving ‘legal highs’

The number of police incidents involving ‘legal highs’ are increasing across England, new figures obtained by the CSJ have revealed.

A freedom of information request showed that ‘legal highs’ are placing an increasing burden on public services.

In Greater Manchester, for example, the number increased 17-fold in two years, from six in 2012 – to 104 in 2014. In West Yorkshire there was a 25-fold increase over the same period – from 13 to 324.

The story was reported by a number of regional newspapers, including the Yorkshire Post, Portsmouth News and Plymouth Herald. Researcher Rupert Oldham-Reid discussed the issue on a host of BBC regional radio stations.

It came just weeks after the CSJ revealed that the number of people in treatment for ‘legal highs’ increased by 216 per cent in the last five years.  Statistics show it rose from 738 in 2009/10 to 2,339 for the year 2013/14 in England.

The CSJ called for police and courts to be given new powers to close ‘head shops’, which sell many of the substances. It said the Government should implement legislation similar to a scheme run in Ireland, where authorities slashed the number of ‘head shops’ from more than 100 to less than 10.

Celebrities back CSJ research at Westminster event

A CSJ report outlining solutions to addiction problems was celebrated in Parliament last month.

Hosted by Andrew Griffiths MP, a panel discussed recommendations put forward in the report Ambitious for Recovery.

Speakers included Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, former Sun editor David Yelland, Mitch Winehouse, who set up the Amy Winehouse Foundation, and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

John Taylor spoke about the importance of residential rehabilitation in his recovery and praised the report, saying: “If a tenth of it is implemented, the UK would be much closer to overcoming addiction”.

David Yelland spoke about the role of the media and called for an environment in which politicians felt able to talk constructively about tackling the problems of drugs and alcohol.

Ambitious for Recovery built on previous CSJ work on addiction, including: No Quick Fix, Addicted Britain and Breakthrough Britain: Addiction.