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Fathers and Parenting

On Sunday, 18 May 2014 the Scottish Government’s Equal Opportunities Committee  published a report that sought to “investigate the distinct social and practical challenges faced by fathers, and the way in which they may differ from those experienced by mothers, with a view to better understanding how changes in social and employment practices may improve outcomes for children with parents who are together, parents who are separated, and lone parents.” This article seeks to summarise the Committee’s findings, with the report itself being an interesting read in that it expresses a number of concerns the Committee has in relation to the extent that fathers are allowed to be involved in their children’s upbringing, with the report also making recommendations as to what steps can be taken to assist fathers become more involved with their young children.
In its report the Committee notes “that fathers may be excluded from attending parenting classes” and that “offering only ‘mummy-centric’ classes not only means that fathers are excluded from learning the skills necessary to look after young babies, but also that new mothers are deprived of a key source of support.” The report goes on to “urge NHS Scotland to work with local health boards and local authority partners to ensure that fathers from all areas of Scotland are able to access a comprehensive range of pre and post-birth classes and support networks,” whilst at the same time asking the Scottish Government to actively support and encourage this.
The Committee also focuses a section of its report on the perception that “parenting is a mother’s job”, noting that the “marginalisation” of fathers in this way presents three main problems:

“That fathers are optional in children‘s lives, and don‘t contribute to children‘s wellbeing;

It is detrimental to mothers as it over-burdens them with sole rather than shared responsibility; and

It dissuades take-up of and participation in services by fathers and pushes men to accept a diminished role in the life of their families.”

The report goes on to suggest that one way of removing this perception would be to ask that “the Scottish Government and all organisations and companies working with parents and children continue to ensure work is aimed at both parents, and…actively work to include fathers specifically.” The Committee also suggests that “all providers (including local authorities as funders) of parent and children groups, encourage the use of the terms like ‘mothers and fathers’ group’ or ‘mums and dads’ club’ as opposed to simply ‘parents’ to encourage fathers to access this vital source of support”.
Whilst much of the Committee’s report focuses on its concerns and the ways in which these concerns can be addressed, the report does also praise the Scottish Government for taking steps to “address fathers in its literature and guidance”, although at the same time the report does note that the Committee feels that “more can be done to support the idea of fathers being involved in childrearing as being the norm”. The Committee also suggests that there is an “imbalance in parental leave entitlements and access to flexible working arrangements”, noting that issues regarding access to such flexible working arrangements “keep fathers from actively participating in parenting”.
The Scottish Government has today responded to the Committee’s report by saying that wider societal changes are needed to allay the Committee’s concerns, with the Scottish Government also noting that it will consider what further measures it should be taking at this stage.
Should you have any further questions regarding the Committee’s report or, indeed, require advice on any Family Law issue please do not hesitate to contact our Family Law Team.