Think Fathers Summit press release

29 June 2009

23 June 2009

Issued by Department for Children, Schools and Families

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families is today calling on individual employers to promote their own family friendly working practices, especially flexible hours for dads.

Hosting a coffee morning with dads who work at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls will listen to their experiences as working fathers and ask them whether the department is doing all it can to promote flexible working practices for parents.

The department offers fathers three weeks paternity leave on full pay with the ability to take the third week flexibly with the agreement of the line manager, compared to the standard offer of two weeks on statutory pay.

The department also offers:

• flexible working options – for example working compressed hours to help with childcare
• more than 50 per cent of employees have remote access to the IT system allowing them to work from home or leave work ‘early’ to spend time with their children before logging on again and completing work
• childcare benefits to all parents which helps when the joint income falls. In London, for example, we pay £230 per month per child
• parents are allowed one day off to attend a child’s first day at school.

Last month DCSF awarded funding £3M funding to parenting organisations to provide advice and support to fathers through the recession. This includes a new campaign on the Dads Space website to tackle serious parenting issues, related to the recession, via social media.

The call to action to employers is part of the ‘Think Fathers’ campaign, launched last year by the DCSF to kick-start a national debate on the importance of dads. The first national ‘Think Fathers’ summit is being held in London today with professional bodies and organisations, public services and the voluntary sector to encourage them to look at how they can better recognise and support fathers.

Speaking at the summit Ed Balls will say:

“I want all fathers to feel supported by their employers, so that they can make time for their families and work flexibly around caring for their children. That is why we are working with BT and other businesses to produce a guide for employers on the benefits of supporting fathers in the workforce and how to set up family friendly practices.

“I know how important it is to take an active role in my children’s lives. Research has shown that children with highly involved fathers at age seven do better at school, have higher self-esteem and are less likely to get into trouble in adolescence. We need to get rid of the outdated assumption that dads are the invisible parent – they deserve to be better recognised for the great job they are doing everyday.

“Now is precisely the time we must support families because economic instability can put a huge strain on relationships. That’s why last month I announced extra money to give families real help through the recession. We know the early years are a crucial time for child development which is why we are now looking at the support we provide to families from a child’s birth, and how well fathers are engaged at this time of change and vulnerability for families.

“Through the ‘Think Fathers’ campaign I want all public services to work better with dads and all employers to make sure dads are given the time they need to be good parents. It’s only right that dads want to spend more time with their children – we must now ensure that we do all we can to support this.”

A new ‘Dads Test’ Guide for Children’s Services is being published today, produced by the Fatherhood Institute and the Parenting Academy, with the DCSF, to help local services assess how well they recognise and include fathers in their work.

David Bartlett, Deputy Chief Executive of the Fatherhood Institute, said:

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to support fathers more effectively. Fathers are more involved in bringing up their children than ever before, and three quarters of dads say they’d like mums and dads to share parenting roles flexibly, rather than either parent acting as ‘main carer’. At the same time, many parents are juggling work and family responsibilities, and facing unemployment and poverty. So it is essential that our public services give fathers the information and support they need to fulfil their crucial role in their children’s lives.

“Many individual workers and services already engage well with dads – in schools, children’s centres, and maternity services. But there are still real barriers to regular involvement. Our challenge now is to spread this good work systematically across the whole country, so all fathers, whatever their situation, are properly valued and supported. That is why, from next year, the Fatherhood Institute will publish an Annual Fatherhood Report to assess how well we as a society are encouraging dads’ vital role in children’s lives, and to spread the word about effective ways to support fathers.”

Parents and employers tell us that there is a demand for family friendly working practices. Many employers recognise that failing to support parents can lead to recruitment difficulties, higher levels of sickness absence or lateness, staff retention problems, and low staff morale and productivity.

BT is one of several companies to develop working practices to help dads balance work with family responsibilities, specifically by encouraging: flexible hours, part–time working, a culture of understanding and trust, emergency or short notice flexibility and special leave.

Caroline Waters, BT’s Group Director, People and Policy said:

"At BT we have actively consulted Dads in building our flexible working policies and as a consequence men feel confident that flexible working is a real option for them. The proportion of flexible workers who are male is the same as the proportion of men in our business as a whole. For most, a small change in working hours or flexible arrangements can make all the difference.

“In our experience creating a father friendly workplace isn’t expensive, difficult or disruptive but it does make great business sense. After all our Dads are often at the forefront of delivering service to our customers and the happier and more involved they are the better our business performs."

Notes to editors:

1. The new ‘Dads Test’ Guide for local services can be found in the Think Fathers section of www.fatherhoodinstitute.org 
2. More information on the Fatherhood Institute’s role in supporting father-inclusive services can be found at www.fatherhoodinstitute.org.  
3. The guide for employers on the benefits of supporting fathers in the workforce will be published in the autumn.
4. A new ICM poll of 500 fathers in Great Britain, published today by the Fatherhood Institute, shows that three quarters (77 per cent) of dads say they’d like mums and dads to share parenting roles flexibly, rather than either parent acting as ‘main carer’.



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