UK

Teen fathers feel 'marginalised', charity says

A hand holds a baby's bottle as the baby drinks milk
Image caption Teenage fathers should get the same help as young mothers, a charity says

Local authorities in England should do more to involve teenage fathers in their children's lives, a charity says.

Barnardo's claims young men are often treated as "invisible" and some policies are actively driving fathers away from their children.

Support services are "mother centred" and leave young fathers feeling "worthless and marginalised", a report from Barnardo's and other groups says.

The Department for Education says it has invested £15m to support families.

The report, entitled "Are we nearly there yet, Dad?", identified a range of other issues including:

  • Little or no contact between young fathers and midwives, health visitors and social workers
  • A failure by maternity services and children's centres to even ask about fathers
  • Local authority housing benefit rules that prevent fathers from providing homes for their children
  • A widespread lack of basic local authority data on the numbers and profile of teenage fathers.

It calls on professionals to "give more value to the father", asks local authorities to appoint a lead employee to co-ordinate services for young fathers and says better data should be kept on teenage fatherhood.

Jonathan Rallings, Barnardo's assistant director of policy and research, said: "For too long dads have been treated either as optional extras or completely invisible by mother-centred family services."

They "want to play their part in bringing up their children. However, they all too often receive the message that they're worthless from services that ignore or marginalise them from the point of pregnancy onwards".

To be properly involved in their children's lives, he said, young fathers "need the same kind of support as teen mums. This includes easily accessible parenting advice, help with housing and special timetabling for training and study.

"We are calling on local authorities to help lead a cultural shift in family care, by introducing practices across their services that universally support young dads' journeys into fatherhood."

The report was produced by Barnardo's and Family Strategic Partnership 2012, a group of four organisations: Barnardo's, Action for Prisoners' Families, Children England and The Family and Parenting Institute (FPI).

Barnardo's said the report's findings were based on the experience of partner organisations, interviews with people who use the services and original research by Leeds University.

Michael Connellan, of the FPI, said: "There is a new wave of dads emerging who are wheeling buggies, changing nappies and experiencing hands-on parenthood.

"But even with this exciting development, women continue to take on the bulk of the responsibilities, and the joys, of raising the next generation.

"We must create a more father-friendly society if we want to see more significant change."

The Department for Education, which commissioned the report, said a father's involvement in his child's life was absolutely crucial.

"We have recently announced £15m of funding for expert voluntary organisations to deliver relationship support services ranging from information and advice for new parents, developing good communication and partnership skills for marriage, to specialist counselling for relationship breakdowns," a spokeswoman said.

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