Children’s Centre Core Offer & Practice Guidance + Phase 3 implementation

12 November 2007



Children’s Centres must:

• “have specific strategies and activities which increase the involvement of fathers in services”

• “consult with fathers on what services they need, and get their feedback on existing services”


Section 2: planning and running a Children’s Centre

“Definition of “parent”: the word, “parent” is to mean, throughout the document, “mothers, fathers carers and other adults with responsibility for caring for a child” – in line with the National Service Framework for Children, which has the same definition.

“Planning requires the assessment of needs of local mothers and fathers.

“Consultation can usefully include groups of mother and fathers. This builds their confidence in the centre. “It is important to seek explicitly the views of fathers as well as mothers.” Special events for fathers are suggested.

(Further things to consider:
„X In multi-agency working, it is possible other agencies will be less committed to engaging with fathers than is specified in the Guidance. Children’s Centres will have to reach consensus on this issue with local partners and may need to show leadership in this process.
„X Only using data from other family services may perpetuate the lack of information about fathers. Consider other sources of information such as employers, recreational centres, Connexions, youth projects prisons.
„X When consulting with fathers, consider using a location men feel comfortable in and at times of the day when (working) men can attend.
„X Consider sub-groups of Children’s Centre parent forums, if some mothers and fathers feel uncomfortable in full forum sessions.)

Section 3: early years provision

“Fathers are as important as mothers in supporting early learning. It is necessary to help both mothers and fathers to engage with their children’s learning: sharing educational aims with them, encouraging activities at home, meeting with parents, planning and recording child’s progress with both parents, etc.

Section 5: information and advice for parents

“Evidence shows that information needs to be written and targeted towards fathers in order to reach them; generalised information aimed at parents tends only to reach mothers.” Information needs to be sensitive to the needs of fathers and promoted particularly to parents, including fathers, whose needs may not be met by services as currently configured.

(Further things to consider:
„X Include in information for fathers, material about flexible working and how fathers can increase their caring contribution to the family.
„X Include information for fathers about how to parent after separation.)

Section 6: parenting and family support

“Support needs to be extended to both mothers and fathers. Support can include social events, drop-ins, open days and other things, designed for mothers and fathers.

“Centres need to provide a welcoming ethos – the key is how staff work with both mothers and fathers, sensitive to gender differences.

“Home visiting should engage with both parents in the home and is an opportunity to engage with both parents together.

“There should be specific support groups for fathers.

(Further things to consider:
„X When providing support to fathers, be aware of cultural issues: the fact that parent support can be considered as a female domain, that accessing support is an admission of failure, and that fathers may lack basic confidence about what their parenting role should be.
„X Consider location and timing of groups to enable participation by (working) fathers.
„X When using parenting education programmes, check they are gender aware.
„X If organising mixed support groups, ensure specific promotion to men.)

Section 7: employment

“Parents, both mothers and fathers should be offered financial advice and training.

(Further things to consider:
„X Provide fathers with advice on flexible working.
„X Engage non-resident parents to support their additional contribution to both care for the child and money for the child.)

Section 8: maternity services

With overlapping references from sec 10 (public health) and sec 12 (teenage parents):

“Social and emotional support for fathers ante-natally and post-natally is important. Young fathers in particular frequently feel excluded.

“Children’s Centres need to develop partnerships with maternity services.

“Issues to be addressed with fathers include relationship with their partner, baby nutrition, breastfeeding, need for father-baby attachment, smoking cessation.

(Additional things to consider:
„X Ante-natal services are the best recruiting ground for fathers – they are almost all present there.
„X Find where to refer fathers to in families where domestic violence is an issue.
„X Ensure that post-natal depression among fathers is detected, to ensure mother and baby get support (particularly if mother is also depressed).
„X Consider engaging with fathers ante-natally using a specialist support worker – groups, one-to-one sessions, outside working hours.)

Section 11: working with fathers

“Consult with fathers during service planning and delivery.

“Provide generic “family-friendly” services, not just specialist work with fathers.

“Support to fathers should be directed towards his relationship with his partner and his role as a parent.

“Services need to be sensitive to fathers and have the skills to engage. This will require training.

I”ssues to be addressed with fathers include parenting, play, showing love to the child, relationship with mother, work, learning, benefits and housing, health (child nutrition, smoking cessation, personal safety an personal health).

“Particular attention should be given to fathers under particular stress – e.g. newly arrived refugees or parents undergoing separation.

“Consider services especially for fathers – on the subject of play or health, or outings with their children.

“Work with mothers on the issue of fatherhood.

“Consider the use of “fatherworkers” whose job is to help fathers with advice and advocacy and to mainstream engagement with fathers across services.

“Consider the use of male workers.

“Consider the Fathers Direct Guide to Working with Fathers and the Fathers Direct Fatherhood Quality Mark.

Further things to consider:
„X How to engage with non-resident fathers?

Section 12: teenage parents

“For both young mothers and young fathers, having a child can be a turning point.

“Involve both young mothers and fathers in design of appropriate tailor-made services for young people.

“Consider using positive images of fathers.

“Offer opportunities to young parents to be seen together without other relatives.

“Develop the skills to engage with young mothers and fathers – for example, a young father’s worker.

“Provide both mother and father with comprehensive information about contraception.

The Children’s Centre Practice Guidance and Planning and Performance Management Guidance (DfES, 2006)

All Centres must:
(i) have a strategy to publicise all their services to fathers specifically….and to communicate why their involvement will benefit their children and themselves”

(ii) have effective systems to gather information about fathers in all the families with whom they are in contact

(iii) routinely offer all fathers the support and opportunities they need to play their parental role effectively

(iv) recruit and train all staff to be sensitive to the needs of fathers as well as mothers

(v) consult with fathers and mothers before strategies are decided, and involve them in planning, delivery and governance of services

(vi) engage particularly with groups of fathers who previously have been excluded from services and whose children are at risk of poor outcomes – including young fathers and black and minority ethnic fathers;

(vii) monitor how far different groups of dads have accessed services, and what they thought of them.

N.B. One of the Children’s Centres Performance Indicators requires Centres to assess how well they engage with fathers in the “most excluded groups”. 

Sure Start Children’s Centres: Phase 3 Planning & Delivery (DCSF, 2007)

‘Working with Fathers’ is one of five priorities for all Centres

‘Father-child relationships can have a profound and wide-
ranging impact on the child that lasts a lifetime. Sure Start
Children’s Centre services should be responsive to
supporting fathers and father figures in their role as parent.
A parent link or outreach worker with a specific remit to
engage with fathers will be most effective. In smaller Phase 3
centres or clusters, a specialist fathers’ worker may need to
be shared between centres. All other staff should also
have the skills and confidence to engage with fathers,
particularly on initial contact.’

Find out how the Fatherhood Institute can help you meet these requirements . . .

Our training and consultancy services, particularly those relating to the Fatherhood Quality Mark, are designed to provide you with the skills and approaches that will help your Children’s Centre become father-inclusive


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