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Do single fathers get a fair deal?

By Gillian Sharpe
BBC Scotland

image copyrightThinkstock
image captionThe Equal Opportunities Committee wants to know the issues facing single fathers

Do single dads get a fair deal or do they face particular issues which are different to women bringing up children on their own?

These are some of the questions that the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee will be trying to answer over the next few months.

On Saturday, the committee is launching an inquiry on the issues facing single fathers and it wants to hear from both men themselves and organisations providing support to them.

"When you're a contact dad you're just seeing your kid for these very fun things," says one single dad, preparing a cup of coffee in the kitchen of his Edinburgh home.

image captionDavid Tennant starred in a BBC drama about a single father

"But when you're a full-time dad you're dealing with getting your son up in the morning, getting him his breakfast, getting him dressed ready for school, getting him off to school.

"It's a whole different world, but it's very rewarding."

Our single father has had his son, now aged eight, living with him for 18 months and has taken parenting classes because he is keen to get it right whenever he can.

But is it different being a single dad as opposed to a single mum?

In his view many of the issues are the same but there are some differences, for instance in the way people perceive you.

"Even going through the court procedures, I felt it was a huge hurdle for me as a man going through to seek custody and things like that.

"Now men have become more active, it's just other people realising that."

He says he has felt isolated at times but going to a dads' group and other classes has helped.

"I've gone to classes where it's dominated by women, but once you get over that, you know that fear of going into a room where it's all women-orientated - it's great."

MSPs on the committee would like to hear more experiences from single fathers and fathers with shared custody.

It says there is a lack of information about the "unique practical, social, and financial challenges they face".

Organisations such as One Parent Families Scotland already give help and support specifically to dads, but it says sometimes men feel the wider family services which are available are not really for them and are perhaps more geared towards women.

"There could be some small changes that would make quite a big difference," says Fiona Forsyth who is chairwoman of the organisation.

"And that would mean that fathers would be less isolated and use services that are out there."

She would also like to see more groups aimed at fathers.

'Back foot'

It was a wish to gather together resources which could help single fathers in particular which prompted one man to start the UK-wide website "Only Dads".

Founder Bob Grieg acknowledges that many issues are common to men and women but he believes some are different.

"Before you find yourself as a single father and by that I mean a father raising children primarily on his own, something unusual has happened, something often catastrophic," he says.

"Mum has died or mum no longer finds herself as the primary carer. It will rarely be a straightforward situation. Single parenting for a dad, often starts with dad on the back foot."

Back in Edinburgh, and alongside the drawings on the wall there is an agreed timetable which lets father and son know what they are doing each day.

So how has the last 18 months been?

He says: "Oh it's great. It's just such an adventure, so rewarding, just brilliant having him about."