The relaunched All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood

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All Party Parliamentay Group on Fatherhood, APPG on Fatherhood, Working with Men, House of Commons,
David Lammy MP and I at the House of Commons for the relaunch of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood has been relaunched. I was fortunate to attend the relaunch event at the House of Commons. During the session, the Group’s chair, David Lammy MP, made a couple of bold promises and a fascinating research project was unveiled.

I appreciate that many readers may not be aware of the APPG. With that in mind, I thought I would outline the background to the Group, why it was relaunched and reveal why the event’s announcements were significant.

What is the APPG on Fatherhood?

The Group is made up of politicians from across the political spectrum. It was launched five years ago by Lammy, a political big-hitter who held senior ministerial rank in the Blair Government. The Group facilitates discussion about fatherhood issues with the aim of making sure fatherhood and dads are considered when new laws and policies are formed.

It works with a number of interested parties. In particular it receives support from Working With Men, a London-based charity that works with boys and men who are socially or economically disadvantaged, marginalised or isolated.

The APPG on Fatherhood does have a website. You can find it here, although Lammy said it will be revamped and relaunched (at the time of writing the site did need updating).

The APPG on Fatherhood aims to. . .

In layman’s terms, it is to make sure that father’s interests are represented when new laws are made or new social policies are created. A classic example is how social workers or midwifes treat men.

The APPG’s formal stated aim is;

“To promote the wellbeing of children by ensuring that legal and policy frameworks keep up with the changing nature of family life and that legislation encourages active and responsible fatherhood.”

Why relaunch the APPG?

Earlier this year there was a general election and this changed the political map of the UK substantially. There was a need to update the APPG’s membership so that it reflects the political landscape.

The relaunch essentially served three purposes;

  1. A clarion call to interested MPs to come forward and join the group
  2.  It was an opportunity for Lammy to outline what he considered the APPG’s priorities and
  3. The event was also a call to action for those working in public services to ensure their work is inclusive of fathers (see the point below about the new research project).

What are the relaunched APPG’s priorities?

Lammy made clear his desire to rectify the “birth certificate issue.” In a bold statement, he said; “I make it my aim to win this in 2016.”

The issue he mentions is an interesting one. Under UK law, a woman can register a birth without having the father’s name placed on the birth certificate. This leaves him with reduced legal rights to his child.

It can be used as a weapon in the case of a relationship break-up or if there is some other issue between mother and father. If the man wishes to be an engaged father, he must then establish paternity which can be a lengthy, burdensome and expensive process.

There is an argument that women should have the right not to acknowledge the father. The consensus elsewhere is that this is the wrong approach and that the rights of the child should trump anything else. In addition to this, the current rules make it easier for unscrupulous fathers to shirk their responsibilities.

Other nations have already taken action to tackle this thorny issue. To give two examples, in both Norway and the Republic of Ireland, paternity must be acknowledged. In both cases, as in other countries, the father’s details have to be placed on the birth certificate by law.

This isn’t the only issue Lammy wishes the APPG to tackle. He also wants to focus on young fathers to ensure they receive the support and help they need to be engaged with their families and a positive influence on their children.

New research project launched

The event was also used to announce the launch of a new research project. It will be led by Dr Gavin Swann, head of children’s safeguarding at Croydon Council.

Dr Gavein Swann, Croydon COuncil,. fatherhood, fatherhood project, APPG on Fatherhood
Dr Gavin Swann, head of children’s safeguarding at Croydon COuncil. Dr Swann unveiled an interesting new research project that he is undrtaking with support from the APPG on Fatherhood.

During the relaunch, Dr Swann, who has a long track record of working in social care and dealing with troubled or disadvantaged families, gave a fascinating speech. He outlined simple steps that can be taken to ensure fathers from such backgrounds remain engaged with their children.

I could have listened to him all day. He didn’t mince his words, he spoke frankly and honestly about the fact men can sometimes be unsupportive. Even so, he acknowledged that support for fathers can be very thin on the ground and this contributes to the issue.

This project will seek to prove the economic burden on local authorities can be reduced if they intervene early and encourage troubled fathers to be engaged with their families. The research will primarily take place in Croydon and has the support of the APPG on Fatherhood and Working With Men.

Dr Swann said existing research proved the likelihood of a man staying engaged with his offspring is greatly increased if he attends the child’s birth. He also said that local authorities often fail to appreciate the value of extended family members when their is a serious breakdown in relationships. Local authorities, he claimed, frequently put children into care when a grandparent of someone else is willing to raise or foster a child.

If there are signs that a man won’t be an engaged father, he said the man’s maternal grandmother is often a very good person to speak to. For some reason, if she can be bought on board to engage with her grandson, he will often turn out to be better father.

The one point Dr Swann made loud and clear, however, was that social workers must engage with fathers. He said they very often fail to do so simply because they have pre-conceived, negative ideas about dads. If they can get over this, he said, the outcome for all involved is often much better.

Wishing the APPG on Fatherhood the best of luck

In the months to come there will clearly be some changes as new members of the Group come on board. The APPG has some important aims and with so many groups representing women’s issues, it is good to see fatherhood and related men’s issues receiving recognition in Parliament. I wish the APPG on Fatherhood the best of luck and will be watching with interest as it develops.

What do you think? Do you think this Parliamentary group serves an important purpose? What issues would you like to see it focus on?

Let's Talk Mommy

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12 thoughts on “The relaunched All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood”

  1. Brilliant post John and so glad we got you on the show to talk about it.

    I hope they push on with this and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to reach out to some bloggers (not just dads) to help spread the news.

    1. Thanks Darren. It was a pleasure to come on the show and chat with you all. Must do it more often.

      I think in time there will be a greater push to publicise the work of the APPG. I believe the priority right now is to sort out membership and when that’s done it will hopefully begin to motor.

  2. What a wonderful set up, fathers need to be considered when it comes to policy, to me that is true equality. Well done for being part of this and sharing it on your blog.

    1. Thanks Vicki. Regrettably a father’s contribution to a family unit can be ignored in policy terms. The APPG has a vital role and let’s not forget, what’s good for men is often very good for women! In fact one of the things I like about the APPG is that it mentions the well being of children first. They should be the priority and one way to achieve that is through encouraging fathers to be engaged.

  3. Hi. …
    Yes. .yes. ..yes
    I salute your efforts. …fathers are important and until they feel that. .then they will feel excluded.
    Recognising their value is paramount. …especially for young boys.
    There are also those fathers who should ‘step up and take responsibility as an equal parent.

    All the best in your future endeavours
    Tina Harrison

    1. Thanks Tina. I won’t dodge the awkward truth, there are dads that should buck up their ideas and hopefully the APPG can reach out to them. Equally, issues such as the birth certificate one will benefit all dads and their children. It’s very telling that “children” is the third word in the APPG’s mission statement and “fatherhood” comes last.

  4. Nice write up John, I’ll be honest, I’ve not heard about the group or knew one was out there looking after the interests of dads, but it’s nice to hear that one exists. As we’ve discussed numerous times before, there’s a tendency for dads to be treated as the inferior parent, so it’s great that a group of like-minded individuals are looking after our interests. I’ll keep an eye out for what develops over the months.

    1. The APPG on Fatherhood has been very quiet since the election (for good reason). It’s now burst back on the scene and the birth certificate issue is a superb one for it to get to grips with. Having a big hitter like David Lammy as chair is no bad thing. I too shall be watching it closely.

  5. I hadn’t heard of this group either but can see its value, especially having seen family members endure spiteful behaviour after relationship break downs.

    It’s incredibly unfair that devoted Dads are being lumped in with those who are lacking in the fatherhood department and just plain wrong that they – and ultimately their children – can suffer due to such legal loopholes.

    That’s so interesting what you say about a man’s maternal grandmother being able to positively influence them – I’d love to know more about the psychology behind that!

    1. Jacqui, I could have listened to Dr Swann all day. He came up with so many little nuggets about how dads get involved or don’t get involved with their children. You’re also right, devoted, involved dads are often lumped in with those who don’t care and that’s terribly sad. It shows why the APPG on Fatherhood is so important.

  6. I haven’t heard of the group but I am glad one exist and that they are working towards more involved and father’s having more say and rights. I think social workers have a stereotype on dads and I have seen two cases lately in friend’s circles where the dad should get the children as the mother is unfit and yet he cant even see his kids at the minute and I think that’s disgusting and I hope they make good changes for dads. Thank you ever so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

    1. Oh wow, you have seen some very telling things up front and personal haven’t you? The family legal system in the UK is norotiously wieghed in the mother’s favour. It is indeed an area I hope the APPG on Fatherhood can get involved with and sort out. It’ll take time, but I hope it can happen.

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