A shocking report in 2014 revealed that a teenager sitting their GCSEs is more likely to own a smartphone than live with their father. The Fractured Families report, from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), also showed that a million children have no significant contact with their dads.
The publication was a wake-up call to all of those who work supporting families or assisting with family breakdown.
But two years later, has anything changed?
Recently, the follow-up report (The Annual Fatherhood Survey) was published and it threw up a whole new set of disturbing facts about broken families, absent parents and just how much contact dads have with their children.
Report calls for a Fatherhood Champion
The research suggests 47% of all UK fathers feel their role isn’t valued by society, 78% of dads say there is less support available to fathers than for mothers. This lack of information and support is termed the Dad Gap and the research points to a generation of Google Dads emerging that relies on the internet to guide their parenting. The report concludes by calling for a Fatherhood Champion to be appointed by the Government to address these issues head on and offer more support for estranged fathers.
At Woolley & Co, Solicitors we deal a lot with dads who are dealing with family life after a separation and it is true to say that many feel unimportant, unsupported and pretty much in the dark.
Why are Dads absent from their Children’s Lives?
Dads with greater resources are more likely to be involved in parenting classes from the outset, building parenting skills that survive into separated parenthood and, in difficulty, are able to access the legal advice and support they need. This leaves a huge swathe of dads Googling their way through parenthood or failing to access any information at all (early years support is almost totally concentrated on mums) and the absence of legal aid for family cases means dads can be completely alone and unaided if they are parted from their children at separation.
Add to this society’s perception that mums are more important in children’s lives and will always be favoured by the Court system (and the media fuels this with inaccurate and anachronistic reporting and dramatization) it is no wonder that some dads give up and melt into the ether.
That is not to say there are not many mums out there who have literally been left holding the baby or who have tried their utmost to engage with the father of their child to no avail, but even so, more education and support has to go some way to making sure children grow up knowing both of their parents.
A relationship with both parents is important
When relationships break down, the hardest thing for parents (in many cases, dads) to adjust to is not seeing their children every day. Co-parenting and parenting separately throw up a whole host of new challenges. Children will in almost all situations need and benefit from having a relationship with both parents – and whilst they may not live together, things can work out. After all, a parent is still a parent after separation. It is imperative that professionals and organisations ensure parents, dads included, are full equipped to make this happen.
Would a Fatherhood Champion help? It might. It would at least show that the issues are being taken seriously and should lead to some direct measures to help close the Dad Gap.
As Baroness Stroud, Director of the Centre for Social Justice, says at the start of the report: “New fathers are crying out for better social and emotional support in order to be the great fathers they want to be. We need to ensure they get the emotional and practical support they need.”
Family law solicitor, Cardiff