Fatherhood Institute launches Invisible Fathers Action Plan

25 May 2009

The British public feels young dads need extra help to overcome economic and social disadvantage, negative portrayals in the media and neglect by services, according to a new ICM poll launched to coincide with our Invisible Fathers Action Plan today.

69% of the public say the media often present a negative image of young fathers and nearly two-thirds think the younger the father, the less likely he is to stick around. However, 9 out of 10 say young dads should be offered intensive support to help them to be good dads.

The results come as we mark the start of National Family Week with our Invisible Fathers Action Plan (to read the plan in full, you can download it from the Related Documents section below) – calling for public services to actively support young dads in overcoming the challenges they face and finding a positive role as fathers.

The poll reveals overwhelming evidence that the public want services to do more:
• 93% of respondents believe services which work with young mothers should also work with young fathers to help them develop close relationships with their children
• 88% say young dads should be given as much financial help to stay in education as young mums
• 93% say young fathers should be offered intensive support to help them to be good dads, and told how important they are for their children.

The action plan identifies 10 key changes that would help services meet the needs of the children of young fathers, including:
• Midwives, health visitors and teenage pregnancy support services to engage routinely with, and separately assess the needs of, young dads-to-be
• Government guidance explicitly stating that local services, including children’s centres and Connexions, must monitor how many young fathers they are engaging with, assessing and offering a service to, and publish the results
• Local authorities must ensure that housing-related support services for teenage parents (including floating support services) are accessible to young dads as well as young mums.

Rob Williams, new chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute said:
“Some services already do a fantastic job – our challenge now is to raise standards across the board. The good news is that many of the changes needed to support young dads are easily achievable, and we would see their impact at once. It is crucial that engaging fathers should not be an optional extra. Supporting these ‘invisible fathers’ right from the start is beneficial not only for the baby but also for the mother – and these benefits can last a lifetime”.

The poll also reveals that the general public has a good understanding about the challenges attached to being a young dad (defined as aged 25 or less):
• 69% say the media often present a negative image of young fathers
• 64% recognise that young fathers are more likely to be unemployed, have lower educational qualifications and to be involved in crime and substance misuse

They are also clear that some young dads need to do more to fulfil their potential as fathers:
• 69% say men only become ‘responsible fathers’ after the age of 25 with a fifth saying they only become responsible after 30
• 65% believe that the younger the father is, the less likely he is to stick around.

Rob Williams said: “The poll results are a welcome sign that attitudes towards young fathers are changing. We are moving beyond the blame game, and the public now takes a pragmatic view and appreciates that for the children’s sake, young dads as well as mums often need extra help.”

Currently, too many young fathers still have experiences like those of James, a 16 year old dad from East Yorkshire, who said: “The first midwife I saw at the hospital just looked at me funny and then never asked me a thing while we were there. She didn’t even ask my name. I still go with my girlfriend to her appointments but I get nervous about it now.” … and Daniel, 18, from Bristol, who said: “The health visitor completely ignored me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t there, she just acted as if I wasn’t.”

The Institute is rolling out a programme of support for local services to make these experiences a thing of the past, and will be monitoring how well they do in engaging with young dads. This will support the Think Fathers campaign, a broader government-sponsored initiative to support fathers’ relationships with their children.


Invisible Fathers Action Plan

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