FI calls on government to scrap bedroom tax for separated fathers

20 November 2013

The Fatherhood Institute is calling on the government to make separated fathers exempt from the bedroom tax and take other steps to ‘draw in’ and support disadvantaged dads – who are more likely to lose contact with their children if they separate from the mother, according to new research.

New figures from the Modern Fatherhood project show that while the vast majority (87%) of fathers who don’t live with their children continue to have contact with them, 13% do not. The research shows that dads who lose touch are more likely to be unemployed, less likely to own their own home, and have fewer bedrooms, than those who remain in regular contact.

Supporting fathers to build and maintain positive relationships with their children is important because research shows that this brings all sorts of advantages to children – including better educational outcomes, higher self-esteem, fewer behavioural problems, and lower criminality and substance abuse.

It is even more vital in disadvantaged families, where a good relationship with the father is even more influential on good child outcomes than in better-resourced families, said Fatherhood Institute joint chief executive Adrienne Burgess: ‘We know that positive father-child relationships have all sorts of benefits for children in poverty, and can help them escape disadvantage. This new research should send a clear message to policymakers, that we should be working much harder to create the conditions in which fathers who don’t live with their children can stay well connected.’

What the government could do

Key steps the government could take to draw in disadvantaged dads to services that could help them to become/stay more involved include:

• Enacting joint birth registration legislation – making it compulsory for both unmarried parents to register a birth, thus giving the father Parental Responsibility and acting as a lever for services to offer support to both parents (Currently 17% of unmarried fathers in the UK do not sign their child’s birth certificate. Non-registering fathers are especially likely to come from socially disadvantaged groups. Legislation to bring in joint birth registration was part of the Welfare Reform Act, but has not yet been enacted.)

• Revisiting the current parenting leave reforms so that dads who don’t meet the stringent employment criteria are able to take paid leave (In order to qualify for ordinary paternity leave and pay, fathers must a) be an employee, b) earn at least £109 a week before tax and c) have worked for their employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. To qualify for additional paternity leave the child’s mother must have qualified for Statutory Maternity Leave or Pay, Maternity Allowance, Statutory Adoption Leave or Pay, and must have returned to work and no longer be getting any of the above.)

• Publishing data already collected by children’s centres on engagement with fathers, and creating a clear expectation that father-engagement be improved year-on-year

• Requiring schools to gather data-collection on ‘parental’ engagement by gender and publish the findings – again, with a clear expectation of year-on-year improvement

• Giving greater priority to separated fathers in social housing to enable their children to stay overnight, including rescinding the bedroom tax for these families (Separated parents who do not live with their children full-time are not allowed a separate room for visiting children under the housing benefit changes introduced in April 2013. For more details see this summary from Gingerbread.)

What you can do

If you’re a dad struggling to stay in touch with your children for financial reasons, including lack of space to accommodate your children – or if you know one – contact us. Please email Jeremy Davies j.davies(at)fatherhoodinstitute.org.

You could also support us with a donation and/or expand our influence by signing up for our e-newsletter and connecting on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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