Fathers and safeguarding
Keeping children safe by improving family services' practice with fathers
Why change is needed
Children with supportive, warm, and positively involved fathers tend to be more well-adjusted, have greater cognitive ability, social behaviour and psychological well-being, and do better at school.
Fathers, like mothers, can also have negative impacts, and may pose serious risks to children – but services are much less likely to engage with and assess men in their parenting roles, or provide appropriate support and challenge.
What needs to happen
We want there to be a step-change in social care and other safeguarding services’ engagement with fathers and other men in children’s families – to better protect children and improve their life chances.
This will require:
Leadership and investment from Government and other relevant agencies
Redesign of services and interventions
Improved administrative systems
More gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation
More confident father-inclusive practice by social workers and other family professionals
We work tirelessly to develop, refine and deliver the highest quality evidence-based father-inclusive practice training courses – which are underpinned by two decades’ worth of evidence reviews, including evidence gathered and regularly updated using systematic methods for our Nuffield Foundation-funded Contemporary Fathers in the UK evidence review series (2017-2023).
These can and do transform the practice of individual practitioners within the health visiting, Family Hubs, early years, social care and other family-focused services that collectively contribute to the safeguarding of Britain’s children
We’ve produced a range of resources for safeguarding practitioners and leaders, including research summaries, videos co-produced with North East Young Dads and Lads and practice guides for ISAFE, and a guide to Engaging Men in Social Care, to help social work teams and leaders audit their father-engagement and develop more father-inclusive approaches
We conducted two rapid systematic reviews of evidence about non-accidental injury of infants by fathers, father-figures and other informal male caregivers, as part of a national inquiry by the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel – whose hard-hitting final report, the Myth of Invisible Men, has been fuelling innovation in the safeguarding sector
All our training is informed by the Myth of Invisible Men report and our earlier work in safeguarding.
Specifically, we’ve developed ISAFE (Improving Safeguarding through Audited Father Engagement) – a new online training intervention package with a ‘practice pathway’ for child protection social workers and a ‘systems pathway’ for their managers in local authorities. We have been delivering this to seven English local authorities as part of a randomised controlled trial to test its impact on social worker attitudes and practice. We hope to offer a version of the programme more widely once the independent evaluation is published, in summer 2024