Case study: Barking & Dagenham Children’s Centres

15 March 2010

The Children’s Centres in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham established a few years ago that there was limited support for dads during the early years of a child’s life. . . .

What they did . . .

A number of initiatives were created. Firstly Children’s Centres took time to look at the work they were doing and how they were engaging with fathers in their communities. A survey was carried out to find out what experience staff had with working with fathers. When this audit had been carried out a number of consultations took place with fathers to find out what type of services they would access and at what time.

The past few years has not been all successes: on a number of occasions services were arranged that had little or no attendance; however the number of dads vocally explaining that there was not enough for them was increasing. As time passed and father engagement grew the need for a more co-ordinated approach was evident . . .  In 2008 LBBD tendered its Fathers Inclusion project to a third sector organisation in the borough. This project is now in its 3rd quarter and looking good.


The monitoring of fathers’ and father-figures’ engagement within Children’s centres in Barking and Dagenham is now an in-grained, routine process. Male data is collected in the same way as females and includes data such as employment status, religion and smoking behaviour. This data has been routinely collected for over 3 years, and has enabled the centres to monitor which services are engaging with men, and which services need more work to engage.

Attracting dads

One particular success is “Sports Fit” run by William Bellamy Children’s Centre. This is not exclusively for dads, but the theme makes it likely that dads will engage.  “Sports Fit” works in partnership with Dagenham and Redbridge Football club and is aimed at getting families active. The session runs on a Saturday morning when “The Daggers” play at home. Dads access this service and then a walking bus walks to the football ground in Dagenham where families access reduced priced or sometimes free tickets to home games. The football club have been key in the engagement of the dads accessing this service.

Across Children’s Centres in the borough we have many other innovative approaches to engaging dads into services – events which are not usually just ‘for dads’ but which we think will appeal to dads. Particularly successful services are Health and Benefits advice services:  many fathers (as well as mothers) attend these.

As a result of ‘thinking fathers’ in all thee different ways, between 2007 and 2009 the numbers of fathers engaged with across the Borough went up almost 200% – from 200 to 550 individual dads accessing per year.


Shaun Childs –