Award-winning dads’ project under threat

15 November 2010

Members of St Martin's Fellowship behind a row of bottles of fruit juiceThe south London dads’ project which won the Fatherhood Institute’s first ever Dads Included Award last week may face closure due to funding cuts.

St Michael’s Fellowship chief executive Sue Pettigrew told the Fatherhood Institute’s Engaging fathers as partners conference that her charity may not be able to continue funding its work with young fathers because of a funding shortfall from March 2011.

“Despite the great work we’ve been doing, we know there’s an awfully long way to go before fathers are really being included by mainstream services. Dads can be the solution rather than the problem, but we just have to hope we’ll get more funding – at the moment it comes to and end in March. How will dedicated fathers’ services like ours survive?”

St Michael’s Fellowship won the £500 award for its empowering work, including three film-making projects and the development of a market gardening and catering social enterprise called ‘Father Nature’. Young dads who attend and volunteer on the charity’s antenatal and other courses – several of whom talked about their experiences at the Engaging fathers as partners event – have been supported to maintain contact with their children, improve their literacy and other skills, and find jobs and training.

A group of dads from the project attended the conference, sharing clips from their three films – Think Fathers, Kim and Big Man, and talked about the impact St Michael’s has had on them:

  • Jerome said it had “shown me the importance of being involved in my children’s life. I’m so happy right now.”
  • Kieran said he had been very worried as an unemployed dad-to-be but that thanks to St Michael’s he had attended antenatal classes and played a big role as birth partner; he is now working and looking forward to going to university.
  • Richard said he had been “shocked, scared and excited” when he found he was going to be a father: “I thought I was a man but really I was a little boy.” He felt that he had been treated by professionals as if he didn’t matter, and that he might, like many young dads, have become detached as a result of being pushed away or ignored – had he not found St Michael’s.
  • Jermaine, father of a two-year-old girl, is now doing a literacy course and an NVQ level 2 in youth work.

Safe Ground, an arts-based educational organisation which works with male prisoners and their families through its family relationship and parenting programmes, Family Man and Fathers Inside, was commended in the awards.

PROFF (Promoting the Role of Father Figures), a male carers’ group in South Lanarkshire, also received a commendation.

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