Supporting young fathers: recommendations for statutory support services.
If you’re School, Sure Start Children’s Centre, Local Authority, or work within maternity services or the criminal justice sector then the government has issued guidance on how to provide support for young fathers below the age of 25 in the UK. This guidance comes in the form of a report called: ‘Are we nearly there yet, Dad? Supporting young dads’ journeys through fatherhood’, the recommendations of which have been summarised here for you by YoungDads.tv.
YoungDads.tv is named by the report as the information and guidance site for young fathers and services that support them.
Background to the report.
‘Are we nearly there yet, Dad?’ is supported by the Department for Education, written by Barnardos, and was published by ‘The Family Strategic Partnership’ on Monday, 17th December 2012. It contains several recommendations for statutory and voluntary services (outlined below).
The report states that the overwhelming majority of research shows that the life chances of children are significantly increased when they have an active father, and that more should be done to ensure that young fathers play an active role as a parent.
- Every local authority should appoint a lead professional for young fathers
- A systematic approach to data collection on fathers should be developed by central Government
- Relationship support should include provision to help young parents maintain contact and value the father-child relationship.
The report also has specific recommendations for maternity services, Children’s Centres, schools, Local Authorities, and the criminal justice sector (see below for the full recommendations).
An overview of the report is available here: http://www.familystrategicpartner.org/young-fathers-report/
A copy of the report is available here: http://www.familystrategicpartner.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Are-we-nearly-there-yet-Dad-vLR.pdf
1. Recommendations for maternity services:
1a) Maternity services should record the father’s details during pregnancy to encourage attitudes and service models that are inclusive of fathers
1b) Maternity services should work with voluntary sector to provide young dads with better preparation for becoming a father, for example by introducing Expectant Fathers Programmes and peer led ante-natal classes such as the Fatherhood Institute’s ‘Hit the Ground Crawling’ programme
1c) Maternity services should work with their local children’s centres to offer a paediatric first aid course to all young dads
1d) Maternity services should record the father’s details during pregnancy
1e) Health visiting services should investigate creating a memorandum of understanding with their local children’s centres to share their knowledge of local need and ensure new families are always registered by health professionals with a local children’s centre
2. Recommendations for children’s centres:
2a) Children’s centres should adopt a culture of asking about the father whenever they have contact with a mother, and keep a record of the young dads that do attend
2b) Children’s centres should refer on to voluntary sector services in the local area that are able to offer specialist support to young dads
2c) Children’s centres should not assume that young dads will want to attend the same groups as young mums, but instead introduce targeted activities such as dads and baby days out and sports events
2d) Children’s centres should introduce a weekly drop-in clinic for young dads to address parenting concerns.Staff at the clinic could also signpost the dads to additional support, for example with housing or employment.
3. Recommendations for schools:
3a) All schools should authorise absence for young dads to attend health appointments and allocate a member of staff to support each young father
3b) Schools need to intervene early, as soon as a young person finds out he’s going to be a dad. The transition to fatherhood is a time when young men experience an increased sense of responsibility, greater ambition to achieve, as well as the need to provide financially. As such the point of entry into fatherhood can be when young men are most likely to engage in education, training or employment
3c) The Government should introduce parenting education for all secondary school pupils. This would support the Government’s aim of normalising support for parents, as well as supporting young parents who are still in school to gain parenting skills.
4. Recommendations for sign-posters:
4a) Information and advice for young dads should be disseminated more widely and through diverse networks, including social media. This applies to Job Centres, libraries, shopping centres and children’s centres, as well as to targeted information services such as the Department of Health’s information service for parents
4b) http://YoungDads.tv’s directory of local voluntary sector organisations equipped to support young fathers should be promoted through the statutory services that come into contact with young fathers.
5. Recommendations for local authority housing services:
5a) Housing should not be a barrier to a young father’s ability to take care of his child. Local authorities should ensure that young fathers are classified as ‘priority need’ and allocated appropriate housing accordingly. In particular they should consider the best interests of the child when allocating housing to young fathers, and recognise the safeguarding implications of placing a young father in shared accommodation
5b) Housing officers should record and identify young fathers, referring them on to voluntary sector support where available.
6. Recommendations for the Ministry of Justice, the Youth Justice Board and the National Offender Management Service:
6a) Systematic collection of data on the number of fathers in custody should be carried out routinely and that data made available to services seeking to support fathers in custody
6b) Tailored parenting programmes should be available to all fathers in the secure estate, taking a holistic family support approach
6c) Resettlement plans should include signposting to relevant support services for fathers including at children’s centres
6d) Currently mothers under the age of 18 are not allowed to visit a partner in prison without an adult present. This restricts the amount of contact a young father has with both his partner and his child and should be reviewed
6e) Information for prisoners about how to make contact and arrange visits with the mother and their child should include advice of the impact of not maintaining contact on future relationships, and their children’s outcomes.
7. Every local authority should appoint a lead professional for young fathers.
7a) In order for health, education, criminal justice, social care, and the voluntary sector to work together to provide holistic support for young fathers, there needs to be an assigned lead professional within the local authority
7b) A lead professional with an overview of the number of young fathers in the area and the statutory and voluntary sector services available to support them would aid commissioning decisions, and lead to better outcomes for young dads and their children
7c) Local authorities should see support for young fathers as part of their statutory duties to children, and partner with the voluntary sector to address their specific needs.
8. A systematic approach to data collection on fathers should be developed by central Government.
8a) There is no national data on young fathers in England. This makes it difficult to assess the scale of need and where support should be targeted.
8b) Better data collection leads to greater support for fathers, as systems which require information about fathers to be inputted lead to practitioners considering fathers’ needs more generally. Once an effective data collection system is in place fathers may be contacted proactively: forms and databases are a stepping stone to cultural change, prompting practitioners to ask about fathers and their needs
8c) Central Government should provide support to enable schools, prisons, housing and maternity services and Children’s Centres to record data in a way that can be collected nationally.
9 Relationship support should include provision to help young parents maintain contact and value the father-child relationship.
9a) Too often services see the father through the prism of his relationship with the mother and not his relationship with the child. Fathers need to be encouraged to see their relationship with their baby as something to nurture, separate to their relationship with the mother.