Family sector leaders meet Govt to issue call for transformation of separated family policy

3 May 2006

Not for publication before 00.01 Thursday 4 May 2006
Contact: Jack O’Sullivan, Fathers Direct 07779 655585/ 01608 737125

More than 40 heads of charities and leading academics specialising in family care today publish an unprecedented call on the Government to transform support for separated families.

The joint statement brings together leaders of the women’s movement, children’s charities, fatherhood representatives and international academic experts on the impact of family breakdown on children. The signatories include the National Council for One Parent Families, Women’s Aid, the National Children’s Bureau, Relate, Fathers Direct, Parentline Plus and the family policy think tank – the National Family and Parenting Institute

They call for the creation of a wide network of support for separated parents – both mothers and fathers – including help with housing, debt, employment, benefits, parenting skills, relationship support, health and maintaining relationships with grandparents.

They urge the Government to make the UK’s four Children’s Commissioners responsible for monitoring radical reforms in practice and policy in this field.

Perhaps most innovatively, the signatories urge the Government to overhaul the Child Support Agency, making it the channel for support services that can support families to work out their own arrangements for sharing care and earning.

The signatories will discuss their proposals at a meeting on Thursday 4 with Sir David Henshaw, who heads the Government’s CSA review, and with officials from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The joint statement says:

“Policy should support both parents in both roles – caring and earning. It should take into account the increase in sharing of roles in the last 30 years, the greater aspirations of parents to fulfill both earning and caring roles and the broad range of influences on parents’ abilities to provide for the well-being of their children.”

It calls for more programmes to tackle domestic violence, including perpetrator programmes and support for children and non-abusive parents.

Among the signatories are Dame Julie Mellor, former Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, as well as some of Britain’s top social scientists in this field – Dr Ann Buchanan (Oxford University), Professor Michael Lamb (Cambridge University), Joan Hunt (Oxford University), Professor Judy Dunn (Institute of Psychiatry), Professor Brid Featherstone (Bradford University), Dr Christine Skinner (York University).

The joint statement reflects attempts by family experts to move the debate about separated families from the narrow issue of legal rights and the enforcement of payments to broader issues of supporting relationships between both parents and their children during and after the emotional traumas of relationship breakdown.

The statement draws attention to other countries that have already implemented many of the changes advocated. Australia has, for example, successfully pioneered a support system for separating mothers and fathers that helps them early on with job problems, money issues, benefit difficulties, housing, relationship support, health advice and parenting training.

The statement says:

“Experience from other countries shows that interventions based on these principles drive up the level of child support paid; help foster constructive relationships between parents and children and between ex-partners; leave parents feeling better treated and also bring substantial savings to the public purse.”

Duncan Fisher, chief executive of Fathers Direct, the national information centre on fatherhood, said:

‘People tend to think that there is general disagreement about the way forward on separated families. Yet, this statement, supported by so many organizations, from such a diversity of standpoints, demonstrates that there is a consensus for a new approach to this issue.’

In Britain, the new Centre for Separated Families in York is already pioneering many of the services that the statement’s signatories would like to see rolled out throughout the UK. Following support for both parents, evaluations show less conflict between the parents and greater understanding of both mothers and fathers of their children’s needs after separation.

Note to Editors:

• The full text of the statement and details of signatories can be found on the home page of, website of the Fathers Direct, the national information centre on fatherhood.
• Karen Richardson, Director of the new Centre for Separated Families, can be contacted on 07740 201 436 or
• The signatories will discuss their proposals at a private meeting at the Cabinet Office with Sir David Henshaw, who heads the Government’s CSA review, and officials from the Department for Work and Pensions on Thursday 4 May. For more details, contact Jack O’Sullivan, Fathers Direct 07779 655585/ 01608 737125.

• Fathers Direct is the national information centre on fatherhood, an independent charity founded in 1999 to promote close and positive relationships between men and their children. It publishes the awarding-winning site and provides training, conferences, guides and briefings on fatherhood. Media inquiries: Jack O’Sullivan 01608 737125/ 07779 655585

• The full list of signatories is:

Caroline Abrahams, NCH
Cathy Ashley, Family Rights Group
John Baker, Families Need Fathers
Ruth Black, Ormiston Children & Families Trust
Dorit Braun, Parentline Plus
Dr Ann Buchanan, University of Oxford
Dr Samantha Callan, Care for the Family and Edinburgh University
Dr Hamish Cameron, Hon Consultant Child Psychiatrist, St George’s Hospital
Lisa Cohen, Jewish Unity for Multiple Parenting
Mary Crowley, Parenting Forum
Ruth Dalzell, National Children’s Bureau
Professor Brigid Daniel, University of Dundee
Carol Daniel, Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council
Helen Dent, Family Welfare Association
Professor Judy Dunn, Institute of Psychiatry
Professor Brid Featherstone, Bradford University
Duncan Fisher, Fathers Direct
Kate Green, Child Poverty Action Group
Nicola Harwin, Women’s Aid
Joan Hunt, Oxford University
Pip Jaffa, Parents Advice Centre, Belfast
Sandra Horley OBE, Refuge
Mary Macleod, NFPI
Penny Mansfield, One Plus One
Professor Michael Lamb, Cambridge University
Dame Julie Mellor
Jenny North, Relate
Roger Olley, Children North East
Chris Pond, NCOPF
Terry Prendergast, Marriage Care
Dame Gillian Pugh
Kulbir Randhawa, Asian Family Counselling Service
Karen Richardson, York Centre for Separated Families
Ceridwen Roberts, Oxford University
Yvonne Roberts, writer
Jane Robey, National Family Mediation
Mary Ryan, RTB Associates
Dr Christine Skinner, University of York
Jean Smith, Scoop Aid
Jo Todd, Respect
Dirk Uitterdijk, YMCA
Gwen Vaughan, Gingerbread

Fathers Direct, Herald House, Lambs Passage, Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TQ.