PM David Cameron says 'runaway dads' should be 'shamed'

David Cameron with his new born daughter Florence David Cameron's fourth child Florence was born last August

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Absent fathers should be "stigmatised" by society in the same way as drink-drivers, the prime minister has said.

A father himself, David Cameron said "runaway dads" should feel the "full force of shame" for their actions.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph to mark Father's Day, he said it was not acceptable for single mothers to be left to bring children up on their own.

Labour said the PM was being "utterly disingenuous" and his policies were making life harder for single mothers.

The prime minister also said he was determined to keep his election pledge of tax breaks for married couples.

The policy had been dropped by the coalition because of Liberal Democrat opposition.

'Beyond the pale'

The Camerons have three children, Nancy, Arthur and Florence - who was born last August.

Their first child, Ivan, who was born profoundly disabled and needed 24-hour care, died in February 2009.

Mr Cameron said traditional family life was the "cornerstone of our society" and that even when parents were separated, fathers had a duty to support "financially and emotionally" their children, spending time with them at weekends, attending nativity plays and taking an interest in their education.

Where men were unwilling to face up to their family obligations, he said that it was up to the rest of society to make clear that such behaviour was unacceptable.

David Cameron with his father Ian at an event during the general election campaign David Cameron with his father Ian during the 2010 general election

"It's high time runaway dads were stigmatised and the full force of shame was heaped upon them," he said.

"They should be looked at like drink-drivers, people who are beyond the pale.

"They need the message rammed home to them, from every part of our culture, that what they're doing is wrong; that leaving single mothers, who do a heroic job against all odds, to fend for themselves simply isn't acceptable."

But Erin Pizzey, founder of domestic violence charity Refuge, said Mr Cameron was displaying a lack of understanding about the reality of family break-ups.

"There are a lot of reasons why [fathers are] not with their children... not least that women won't let them," she said.

Ms Pizzey said it was wrong to single out men, adding: "There is a vast mass of women who are equally as feckless as the men and we never talk about them."

The prime minister also talked about his admiration from his own father, Ian Cameron, who died last year aged 77.

"Seeing him get up before the crack of dawn to go and do a hard day's work and not come back until late at night had a profound impact on me," he said.

Child maintenance

For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Mr Cameron's words were "hollow".

"His government is making it much easier for deadbeat dads to run from their responsibilities by charging mums to use the Child Support Agency," she said.

"And now he wants to reward runaway dads who remarry with a marriage tax break, whilst still cutting tax credits for the mums left behind holding the baby."

The much-maligned Child Support Agency (CSA) was effectively axed in 2008 when it was rolled into a new body - the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC).

Earlier this year, the government announced proposals to encourage parents to reach their own arrangements over child maintenance - rather than relying on the CMEC - by charging those unable to do so.

Erin Pizzey: "There is a vast mass of women equally as feckless as the men"

They would be required to pay an upfront fee of £100 (or £50 if they claim benefits), plus an ongoing charge of between 7% and 12% of the money paid where payments are collected and enforced by the CMEC.

Fiona Weir, from the charity Gingerbread - which campaigns on behalf of single parents - also criticised the proposals.

"If the prime minister really wants to support heroic single parents, he must withdraw these damaging proposals which would limit access to the CSA," she said.

To mark Father's Day, a survey of 1,000 fathers - all with children aged under five - found only 15% of fathers believed their partners were more competent at caring for their baby than they were.

But 61% said they felt the general public did not trust men to care for babies as much as they trust women to.

The survey also showed that nearly half said they felt they had been ignored by maternity services, while 18% said they were not aware of their right to take two weeks' paternity leave and pay.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    I think it's dreadful that David Cameron has made such a blanket statement regarding fathers who do not see their children. My son is currently trying to gain access to see his children. He has done nothing wrong and is going through the long process of mediation, and probably court.
    Mr Cameron's comments are insensitive, he is extremely fortunate as he is able to be with his children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    Cameron has lost my vote now, I've seen both sides, i'm no longer with my eldest's dad my choice and don't want anything from him. My husband on other hand has kids with 2 other women who left him for someone else, he had contact but no more since they got CSA involved so he does financially support them but not emotionally as not allowed how is that fair. DAD's have feelings to!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    I also agree with this. My ex husband paid very little child surport, and only seen his son rarely. My son is now 18 and today has not sent his father a fathers day card even though I have bought him one every year and posted it for him. But this year he said not to bother he does'nt bother with me! How sad is this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    I completely agree with this. There are good fathers who are always there for their kids and continue to provide for them even when their relationship with the mother breaks down. There are so many terrible fathers who clear off, expecting the mother to do everything on her own and making no effort to keep contact with their child(ren). Why is it single mums who get all the criticism?

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    I'm a single dad. We get no help financially or emotionally from the mother. We have no benefits or bleeding hearts. Another attack at dads in order to stigmatize them and create a smokescreen to detract from Cameron's promise to reform family law. Most fathers are not 'runaway' but 'forced away'.


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