Thursday, 18 February 2016

Request for the course

Exciting news!  I was contacted recently by Catch-22 in Bristol.  The organisation had come across the blog and recognised that our work was relevant to their needs.  Readers of this blog may know that, apart from being a great novel, Catch-22 is a social business operating nationally, providing services that help people in a wide variety of tough situations to turn their lives around.

I met with Emma Cochrane early in January to discuss whether our young-dads-to-be course would be helpful to some of Catch-22's clients.  Emma concluded that it would be and we had a follow-up meeting a couple of weeks ago, together with her line manager, John Shadwick, and Leeroy who will run the course.  It was great to feel their enthusiasm for it and to think that, at last, some young men, their partners and, most importantly, their childrem will benefit from its implementation. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Continuing (modest) demand for the DVD

During the past week I’ve had two contacts from people asking for copies of the DVD.  One was from a Czech guy, based in Galway, who is working with a number of men’s groups in Ireland.  The other was from someone who is returning to be a community midwife after a break of five years and who came across Jackie’s 2009 article in Practising Midwife!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Benefits Street shock horror

When we made our DVD five years ago, one of the young dads was quite open about the fact that he was better off on benefits than he would ever have been in work, not that he could find any.  “I’ve just been paid,” he used to say each week.  And that’s before I discovered that one of the country’s major banks was taking 10% of his benefits in overdraft charges each month because, although he was living within his means, he didn’t have the financial nous to avoid going overdrawn.

As for the flats and houses I used to visit when I was running our young dads-to-be course, it would be enough to say that I wouldn’t want to have lived in any of them.  The worst was so damp that it wasn’t just the walls were mouldy.   I saw mould on both hard and soft furnishings.

And then there’s food banks.  Too often I had to arrange for for young couples to get food bank support because their benefit payments got messed up.

So nothing in the Channel 4 programme is new, or a surprise.  The only surprise is that it’s provoked controversy.  There seems to be a general lack of awareness of the dire circumstances that far too many of our young people have to contend with.

Baby talk

“Speaking directly to a baby or reading a bedtime story has a direct impact on how well they will do in school and possibly their career in later life ... “  So begins an article in last Saturday’s Independent, describing a Stanford University study.  No surprise of course, but a problem for young parents with their own literacy issues.  The study also “warned against using ... TVs as babysitters.”  Far too often I saw babies ‘parked' in a bouncy chair underneath a television while mum/dad’s focus was elsewhere.

The study serves as a reminder that the support needs of young parents can extend well beyond the birth of their children

Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Conservative view of “some fathers"

During last week’s Commons debate on the bedroom tax, the Tory MP for Monmouth, David Davies, said it was "absolutely outrageous" that that some fathers "just disappear" after getting a woman pregnant.
"It is utterly shocking and I hope that the ministers will take note of this and get hold of some of these feckless fathers, drag them off, make them work, put them in chains if necessary, make them work and make them pay back society for the cost of bringing up the children they chose to bring into this world," he said.

There’s that wonderful phrase again - feckless fathers.  Whilst there are some young men (does anyone know how many?) who might merit Mr Davies’ spleen, and who help to sell the Daily Mail, it would be more helpful if Mr Davies, Mr Dacre, and those who think like them, would instead reflect on the nature of our society and the influences that impact on sexuality and relationships.   We might then have an adult discussion about the issues involved, and do something positive about them.  I know, wishful thinking, but one can but hope.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

“Difficult’ dads matter too

Good to see the above heading in a recent Fatherhood Institute newsletter.  I seem to have come across the phrase before!  If you want to read more about the topic, check out:

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

CSJ film

I‘ve just found a link to the short film that was made by the CSJ for the Awards Evening in 2009:  It’ll only take 2 minutes of your time!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Young Parenthood Conference

Good to see that UK Youth is holding this conference later next month.  Details can be found at
Had we still been operating we would almost certainly be going, perhaps even running a workshop about our work and the Dads Matter Too course.  Sadly those times are past.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Daily Mail - fount of all knowledge

It’s been a while since my last post.  It’s not that nothing’s been happening.  It’s more a case of slacking on my part.

Back in early May, Melanie Phillips dropped a rock into the fatherhood pond when she wrote about her own father’s failings, and how these showed her the toxic legacy of inadequate parents.   “By the late Eighties (there was) mounting evidence that family disintegration and the subsequent creation of step-families or households with no father figure at all did incalculable damage to children.”  She described how fathers were vital to the emotional health of children, adding that “Fatherless families were also at least partly responsible for a national breakdown in authority and rising levels of crime.”  She quoted research in the early nineties that concluded that “children in fractured families tend to suffer more ill-health, do less well at school, are more likely to be unemployed, more prone to criminal behaviour and to repeat as adults the same cycle of unstable parenting.”

Those of us who have worked with such families won’t find much to disagree with here, but Ms Phillips found her views being attacked by her fellow Left wingers - she was a Guardian journalist at the time so it’s no surprise that she moved to the Daily Mail.   At this point I should say that I’m no particular fan of Mr Dacre’s newspaper, and that I don’t always agree with some of Ms Phillips’ more robust views.  But I think this article of hers expresses some uncomfortable truths and deserves a wider audience.

It may be no coincidence that the same edition of the Mail carried a story about a young girl from a fractured family who, by the age of 15, had two children.  Her teenage ‘sperm donor’ had no subsequent involvement with his children.  So it goes.  This sort of story is familiar to Mail readers and plays into the ”Broken Britain” narrative which the paper likes to relate.  I would feel more positive about the Mail if it espoused some strategies for addressing the issues which it merely reports in order to wind up its readership.  Its dig at Ed Miliband  today through his father is in example of the Mail’s skill at unpleasant provocation.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Band of Brothers

An article in last Sunday’s Independent related David Freud’s convoluted relationship with his very talented, very famous, but distinctly absent father, Lucian.  Freud wants to become a mentor with the Brighton-based Band of Brothers which pairs disaffected young men with local role models.  He’s taking part in a paint-a-thon next month in a bid to raise money for the charity, which uses weekend retreats to create modern ‘rites of passage’ for the young men in an attempt to build up their self-worth.

Freud himself is a father of four but has lost contact with his third daughter, a loss about which Freud says that he’s "recreated the relationship between me and my father with (my daughter).”  His experience is a poignant reminder of the need to find imaginative ways to support the sort of young men that find themselves with a Brighton Brother.  Many of them will either already be, or will become fathers themselves, and could repeat the damaging cycle, as Freud knows all too well.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Should new fathers be getting more help to be able to support during birth and beyond?

This question was debated on Women’s Hour this morning.  Among those taking part were Dean Beaumont from Daddy Natal and Prof Tina Miller from Oxford Brookes.  Dean was up against a presenter, Jane Garvey, who took a particularly scornful approach to his suggestion that many men would welcome, and profitably use, extended paternal leave in order to begin the development of a sound relationship with their new-born.  The fact that midwives are part of the problem because they usually ignore fathers, as well as part the solution, was given an airing, but without a hint of what needs to be done in order to improve matters.  It was a reminder of how far away we still are from a grown-up discussion about the importance of fathers, as well as mothers, in the lives of their children and how services have to change in order to meet their needs.  But at least the programme debated the question.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Early Intervention on the Early Way Out?

The message implicit in an article in Children & Young People Now, the NYA publication, is not encouraging for those of us convinced of the importance of early intervention.  The government has decided to compel local authorities to reveal their early intervention expenditure by publishing a funding profile.  The move is alleged to help identify local spending on such programmes as the early intervention grant is absorbed into wider local government funding from April.  The decision was revealed in an answer to a written parliamentary question by Graham Allen MP, chair of the Early Intervention Foundation just before Christmas by the junior communities minister Brandon Lewis.

But Allen said the decision was a “tiny concession” for changes to the grant, which have widely been viewed as an abandonment of the government's commitment to early intervention.  “The very small concession is the fact that it can be tracked, and we’ll try and figure out where the money is being spent,” said Allen.  But he warned, “Local authorities are under pressure to use the money for mandatory programmes, and now early intervention will be at the back of the queue.

Andrew Webb, vice president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said the move was designed to shift the responsibility of spending cuts.  Fancy that.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, an article on Tuesday’s C&YPN reported that early intervention funding for councils is to be cut by an additional £49m over the next two years.  It’s useful to to know where the charming Mr Gove’s priorities lie.  It gets worse.  Today, the former children’s minister Tim Loughton MP, accused Mr Gove of running his ministry like the department store in seventies sitcom "Are You Being Served?”  Mr Loughton accused Mr Gove, his old boss, of behaving like Young Mr Grace, the out-of-touch department store owner in the comedy who barely knew the people who worked for him.

Giving evidence to the Commons Education Committee, Mr Loughton painted a devastating picture of the Department for Education (DfE) as inefficient and bureaucratic with an ‘upstairs downstairs mentality’.  The former children’s minister slammed the ‘declining’ priority given to children and families' issues, accusing Mr Gove of ‘complete radio silence’ on the subject.  ‘Most officials have never met the Secretary of State other than when he will troop out a few chosen people for the new year party, Mr Grace-like from Grace Brothers, and tell us we've all done terribly well and then disappear,’ he said.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Dads Matter Too - the DVD

At this month’s conference I met Kim Parker and her two colleagues from Cornwall.  They are also committed to working with young fathers-to-be and I gave her some of the few remaining copes of the DVD.  I’ve just had a wonderful email from her, which I quote with her permission:

"I showed the DVD in the Childcare group that I am teaching and they thought it was great and could not get the song out of their heads. I found it really useful when talking about the importance of making partnerships with parents and especially relationships with fathers.

I have also placed 2 of the DVDs in the Health Promotions resource library where different agencies can borrow resources to support their groups. 

Julian and myself are going to incorporate the DVD in our Dads programme too and a Dads group in Camborne down here have also asked if they can borrow a copy to show the Dads.”

It’s great to have confirmation that, despite being made four years ago, it is still relevant.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Second National Conference For Men and Boys

The theme of the conference was 'building the sector’.  About 200 delegates took part from all over the country and it was good to hear about all the good work that’s going on, particularly in the fatherhood field.

It was also good to see ‘old’ friends and make some new ones.  John will remember Melvyn Davies, whose daughter is now 7.  Was it that long ago!  And the London team will remember Kevin Lowe.  I hadn’t seen him since the TSA’s conference 'back in the day'.  Had to say that because I can’t remember the year.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Course update

Four agencies have now acquired a licence to run the course.  Good news because it means that a slowly-increasing number of young men are being given the support they invariably welcome, and need.