Evidence submitted to the Parliamentary Inquiry on Parenting and Social Mobility, outlined in a new report, suggests that fathers are often side-lined when family support services are being developed.
The inquiry, carried out by a cross-party group of MPs and peers, said that this could be because the early years workforce is largely female so staff tend to aim parenting support programmes at mothers, which leaves fathers feeling alienated.
However, it warns that fathers are crucial to their child’s early development, which is vital for their social mobility.
According to the inquiry, effective parenting has a bigger influence on a child’s life than income, class or education.
To better engage with fathers, the report, written by the Family and Childcare Trust - the inquiry's secretariat, recommends a flexible and genuinely inclusive approach to parenting support programmes or campaigns be adopted.
However, it warns against early years services targeting fathers specifically as it says those that already feel side-lined may become further disillusioned.
The report, which lists a number of other barriers to parental engagement with support programmes, such as a lack of joined-up working and the stigma attached to attending such programmes, along with including examples of initiatives that have proved successful, concludes by making a number of recommendations to the next Government, including:
- encouraging early years services to actively engage fathers by clarifying guidance, promoting activities that are accessible to fathers, and promoting the participation of men in the workforce;
- providing all local authorities, parents and providers with best practice guides and guidelines for developing parenting support campaigns in the areas based on positive, non-prescriptive models;
- the creation of a minister for families, with the purpose of working across department to ensure a joined-approach to policy creation and implementation in areas that impact heavily on families.
Baroness Claire Tyler, chair of the Parliamentary Inquiry on Parenting and Social Mobility, said, 'We know that parenting is crucial to children’s social and emotional development, but for too long politicians and policy makers have shied away from this issue.
‘We want to see any incoming Government encourage early years services to actively engage fathers by promoting activities that are accessible to them, and by supporting greater participation of men in the early years’ workforce.
‘Effective parenting has a bigger influence on a child’s life than income, class or education, and for too long fathers have been woefully neglected by local and national government in the narrative about children’s early development. This needs to change.’