Fatherhood Institute maternity campaign bears fruit in Child Health Strategy

17 February 2009

The Government’s Child Health Strategy, launched on 12 February, breaks new ground by committing maternity and early years services to closer engagement with fathers, including allowing them to stay overnight in hospital after the birth of their children.

The Strategy explains that there is “strong evidence that early involvement of fathers has significant benefits for children’s social, emotional and intellectual development and wellbeing. But despite the immensely important role that fathers play, it is too often overlooked, particularly during pregnancy and the early years.” 

Amongst the Strategy’s key recommendations are:
• Improve fathers’ involvement in maternity services including working with Strategic Health Authorities to support fathers’ staying overnight on maternity wards
• Develop an e-learning programme for Health Visitors to include couple relationships
• Pilot a new Antenatal Education and Preparation for Parenthood Programme with particular reference to fathers and excluded groups
• Develop a Fathers’ Early Years LifeCheck to complement that already in place for mothers, so that fathers, for the first time, will receive tailored information on their baby’s health and development
• Work with ‘identified PCTs’ to pilot new methods of engaging with fathers in the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme, in particular to ensure that fathers are involved in the reviews which are at the heart of the programme.

Over the past year, the Fatherhood Institute has advised the Government on key fatherhood-related aspects of the strategy, including the Fathers’ Early Years LifeCheck and the Healthy Child Programme. The Institute’s report on the widespread failure of maternity services to engage effectively with fathers, The Dad Deficit: the missing piece in the maternity jigsaw called, among other things, for fathers to be able to stay overnight on maternity wards to support their partners, and for ante-natal education properly to address fathers as well as mothers.

The new Child Health Strategy reports that the Government has recently updated best practice guidance to state that maternity units should have overnight facilities for partners of women in labour provided within or near the unit, and that mothers and fathers should expect to be involved in the planning process for any new maternity facilities.

David Bartlett, acting Chief Executive of the Fatherhood Institute, said:
“It is excellent news to see the Government’s Child Health Strategy recognise the crucial role that fathers play in the health and development of their children. These new programmes for involving fathers are an important step in the right direction, which the vast majority of mothers and fathers will welcome.

"But there now has to be an equally ambitious strategy to provide hospital staff, health visitors, social workers and others interacting with children and their parents with the knowledge, skills and practical tools to implement the programmes effectively. The Government recognises that child health services need to undergo a major cultural shift to take the role of fathers more seriously and engage with them more effectively. We are committed to supporting local service providers to meet that challenge.”

Child Health Strategy
Child Health Strategy Commissioning Guidance
The Dad Deficit

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