Again quite an old article this but connected to the item I posted yesterday I thought it might provoke discussion. I think the general points are interesting and whilst we no longer have Tony Blair's Government the issues the article raises are still important and relevant.
A new publication by the Equal Opportunities Commission - Fathers and the modern family- launched for Father's Day, warns that a new generation of dads are being held back by society’s failure to recognise the importance of fathers. While today's fathers are eager to play a more hands on role with their child, they are faced with barriers, both at work and by Britain's public services.
Over the last decade, Tony Blair’s Government has delivered a great deal for mothers – now the EOC is calling on the new Gordon Brown-led Government to make a similar impact in providing support for fathers.
The EOC's new analysis of the Millennium Cohort Surveys (MCS) presents important evidence about the links between a father's role and the well being of children. Fathers' personal characteristics, such as having a high depression score when the child was aged 9-10 months old; having low educational qualifications and being very young at the child’s birth all increase the likelihood of a three year-old child having developmental problems.
To give children the best possible start in life, health, education and childcare services need to direct attention to both mothers and fathers. The importance of fathers attending antenatal classes and being involved with the birth has finally been recognised. The EOC now wants to see greater involvement of fathers at later stages, starting with health visitors seeing both parents after the baby's birth, not just the mother.
Like mothers, many fathers are frustrated at the lack of time they have with their children. 63 per cent of fathers who worked full-time did not feel that they spent enough time with their 9-10 month old baby.
The workplace is still adjusting to fathers' aspirations to spend time at home when their children are born and to share the caring role with mothers. It is widely accepted by employers that mothers will make use of the Government’s new flexible working arrangements to combine their roles as carers and workers. But it is still less accepted for fathers to do so. The DTI's Third Work-Life Balance survey last year found that 23% of requests from men for flexible working were turned down compared to only 13% of women's.
Jenny Watson, Chair of the EOC says:
"Attitudes towards parenthood are changing fast. Our research shows that most fathers themselves now believe they are equally important in looking after their baby. The last ten years has seen a strong Government agenda to provide more support to mothers, who are now benefiting from 39 weeks maternity leave and increases in statutory maternity-pay. Dads however receive just two weeks of paid paternity leave. And whilst both parents of young children now have the right to request flexible working, men are more likely to have their requests declined by their employer. Since a third of fathers are working more than 48 hours a week that has a real impact on family life.
Despite a revolution in their own attitudes towards fatherhood, men are still finding it difficult to make these aspirations a reality. Swift implementation of the proposals for Additional Paternity Leave would demonstrate that Gordon Brown’s Government is serious about acknowledging that fathers have a role at home, as well as at work.
As well as helping fathers to spend more time with their children, it is crucial that fathers have equal access to public services. For example health visitors on home visits should include fathers as well as mothers. Likewise, early years services must think about ways to engage both parents."
Key changes the EOC would like to see to benefit fathers include:
* Recognition by health, education and childcare services that both mothers and fathers are responsible and need to be involved and consulted about matters relating to the development and well-being of their child.
* Early diagnosis and treatment for fathers with depression because, as with mothers, paternal depression can have a negative impact upon children's development.
* Early implementation of the proposed new right for fathers to take paid Additional Paternity Leave where a mother returns from maternity leave between 6-12 months after her baby's birth.
* Continuing development of changes to workplace culture which enable more flexible work practices that would fit fathers' parenting role.