FI joins David Lammy MP to call for joint birth registration

13 June 2012

For Fathers’ Day 2012, David Lammy MP and leading campaigners have joined forces to call on the government to stand up for mums, dads and whole families. Active dads are good for children and good for families – a fact that we recognise every Fathers’ Day, but a fact that is not properly reflected in law.

At least 45,000 children every year do not have their father registered on their birth certificate. This is bad for children. Legislation introduced in 2009 aimed to ensure that more children born to unmarried parents have both parents registered on their birth certificate. The Government has refused to bring that legislation into force.

Fathers who do not sign their child’s birth certificate are less likely to be supported by family services in caring for their child, less likely to have close relationships with their children and less likely to support the family financially. Children who have active, engaged fathers are more likely to grow up to become happy, healthy, successful adults than their peers whose fathers do not play a substantial role.

David Lammy MP said: “On Fathers Day, we should celebrate the work and importance of dads. That importance should be highlighted at birth, by including the father on his child’s birth certificate. I know what it is like to grow up without a Dad and I find it bizarre that the law doesn’t recognise the assumption that mum and dad will work together to raise their child. This decision is bad for children, bad for mums and bad for dads.”

Adrienne Burgess, Joint Chief Executive of the Fatherhood Institute, said: “Requiring both parents to sign the birth certificate sends out a powerful message that our expectations of mothers and fathers are equal. There is a concern that some children could be endangered by having their fathers on the birth certificate but concerns about dangerous parents are carefully dealt with in the draft legislation and there are existing child protection measures for these situations. Meanwhile, 45,000 children every year are losing out because they do not know, and often never will know, who their father is.”

 

NOTES

1. David Lammy is the MP for Tottenham and the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood. His call for the government to change the law has been supported by:

* Adrienne Burgess; Joint Chief Executive, Fatherhood Institute

* Matt Buttery; Chief Executive, Family Matters Institute

* Leroy Edozien; Consultant Obstetrician, Engaging Partners in Childbirth (EPiC) research project

* Duncan Fisher OBE; Social Entrepreneur in family services

* Michael E Lamb; Professor of Psychology and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College at the University of Cambridge

* Charlie Lewis; Professor of Psychology, Lancaster University

2. Part 4 of the Welfare Reform Act 2009 was intended to amend the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, and aimed to ensure that, where possible, unmarried parents jointly registered the birth of a child. The Minister for Children and Families, Sarah Teather MP has said that the Government will not make the requirement law. The Act would have changed the rules regarding how unmarried fathers acquire parental responsibility.

3. The UK is out of step with other common law jurisdictions. The Republic of Ireland’s Law Commission has recently proposed a similar law and, in Australia and New Zealand, joint birth registration by unmarried parents has been in force for decades. Other European countries differ in their approach but, in France, the father has primary responsibility for registering a birth and unmarried fathers must complete a declaration of recognition of the child.

4. The Minister for Children and Families, Sarah Teather MP, confirmed that the government would not proceed with the joint registration proposals in a letter to campaigners for a change to the law on 20 April: “Our decision not to proceed with the birth registration provisions in the Welfare Reform Act 2009 was taken last year after careful consideration of the arguments on both sides.” This was despite the Minister stating that “the Government supports joint birth registration” and that “we want to send a clear signal that involvement of both parents should be the norm, and help ensure that as many children as possible benefit from having both parents involved in their lives.”

5. Currently, a mother is always recorded on an original birth certificate. A father is recorded if the mother agrees – by marrying him or, if unmarried, by consenting to his signing. Otherwise, a court can issue a paternity order. This contravenes Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires countries to ensure “as far as possible” that a child’s parentage is recorded.

6. There is no current requirement for maternity services to register fathers’ details or to engage with them. Requiring joint birth registration would mean that all health and family services must communicate with the father himself. This would identify many men who could enhance the role they play in their children’s lives. It may also identify some fathers who pose a risk to their children, and potentially their mothers, allowing that behaviour to be challenged and changed.

7. Low levels of father involvement are associated with a range of negative outcomes for children. Involved fathers are correlated with positive child outcomes including: better cognitive and social development; higher IQs; better peer relationships; fewer behavioural problems; lower criminality and substance abuse; higher educational and occupational mobility relative to their parents; higher capacity for empathy; higher self-esteem and life-satisfaction; stronger family ties; and more satisfying adult sexual partnerships.

8. For media requests, contact the Office of David Lammy MP at media@davidlammy.co.uk or 020 7219 0899.

 

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