Engaging fathers in child protection: a report from an FI roundtable

8 April 2013

The Fatherhood Institute’s roundtable event ‘Engaging fathers in child protection’ took place on 14 March 2013, and was chaired by Professor Eileen Munro.

Attendees included David Lammy MP and representatives from Action for Children, Barnardo’s, Cardiff University, Centre for Social Justice, Child Accident Prevention Trust, Department for Education, DVIP, Family Rights Group, Focus Consultancy, Frontline, Local Authorities, London Probation, Morning Lane Associates, NSPCC, Open University, Respect, Royal College of Midwifery, Safeground, University of Bristol, as well as from the FI itself.

The roundtable featured presentations from:

• Professor Brid Featherstone

• Cathy Ashley, CEO, Family Rights Group

• Mark Osborn, Safeguarding programme manager, Fatherhood Institute

• Pat Smail, Focus Consultancy

• Gavin Swann, Islington Council.

Discussion was interesting and productive. Several points and questions emerged as key issues to focus on as organisations plan more father-inclusive approaches for the future:

  • There is a greater need to understand relationships in safeguarding in relation to gender and power. There is a need to look at social work training to review how this skills staff to work with men with particular reference to the impact of masculinities on interactive and interpersonal behaviours. We need to think about the skills base of social workers and be realistic about what we expect social workers to do.
  •  Domestic violence is central to this area of work. Various staff groups have slightly different starting points when thinking about why we need to engage fathers more effectively. We need to think about how we can achieve greater integration and establish better partnership processes and approaches between staff groups. There is greater scope for inter-agency collaboration drawing on separate areas of expertise and establishing shared strengths. This must be done without creating a more complex user journey for those who come into contact with services.
  • We need greater knowledge and understanding of models that work, and need to plan services around these more systematically. Case studies and narratives about what works and what effective practice looks like are key, and for this we need evidence of best practice examples from practitioners.
  • Bringing about cultural change is a significant task and the agenda needs to be owned by a range of organisations including local authorities. Ofsted’s influence would make a significant difference. To address this issue there needs to be a multi-faceted approach. Change needs to be simultaneously top down and bottom up; either of these approaches on their own will not bring about significant change. Identifying champions within an organisation has clear benefits. This work is resource intensive and it’s important to collect good quality data, in order to identify positive outcomes and benefits, thus allowing a pragmatic argument to be made that the work is important.
  • The power of service users’ voices should not be under-estimated; it is important that these voices are heard and listened to. We need to hear children’s voices, as well as mothers’ and fathers’ voices.

All attendees identified action points to take away with them.

For more details about our work on engaging with fathers in child protection, contact Mark Osborn via email at mark.osborn(at)fatherhoodinstitute.org or on tel 07920 428139.



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