There comes a time when words must be backed up by action – and the threatened closure of DadsWork in East Lothian marks exactly that moment for those who say they want to help men to be the best fathers they can for their kids.
The pioneer support group is about to run out of funding just only weeks after the Scottish Parliament issued a call for expansion of such lifeline services – and ironically as we approach Father’s Day.
DadsWork has been supporting fathers and their children & families in East Lothian for 12 years with parenting classes, counselling, home outreach, welfare support, returning men to employment and further education, and a playgroup – in some cases making a life-or-death difference for men at risk of suicide. Its trail-blazing work has helped spark a national debate on the value of fathers – and wake up NHS and government policy makers to the need for dad-focused community support across Scotland.
Only last month [May 2014] the Fathers and Parenting report by the Equal Opportunities Committee of the Scottish Parliament urged the government to "support the set-up of new groups and help existing groups to grow”; while the government’s own Parenting Strategy in 2012 pledged to prioritise “making our policies and services more ‘dad-friendly’.” But unless funding is found by the end of this month [June 2014], when existing Lottery Funding runs out, 75 fathers & families will be stranded without support, plunging many into crisis.
“If it wasn't for my time with DadsWork, I would be in a box 6 feet under,” says Edinburgh dad Ken Campbell, who was in despair when the service reached out to him. “Instead I am a playworker now for an after school program.”
MSP Margaret McCulloch, convener of the Equal Opportunities Committee, heard from many other dads as part of the recent report – dads who wanted to take an active part in their children’s lives but who felt marginalised by society. This was happening right from the start as dads were discouraged from attending pre and post-natal classes and parent-and-toddler groups.
“We know that by engaging fathers early, they stay involved with their child, even if the parents separate,” said Ms McCulloch at the report’s launch. “Equally, we were not surprised to hear that the same childcare and flexible working issues keeping women from actively participating in the workplace, also keep fathers from parenting. We are concerned by this imbalance in parental leave and access to flexible working for fathers. These issues must be addressed if we are to improve outcomes for children and parents right across Scotland.”
I believe the looming closure of Dadswork sends all the wrong signals at a time when policy makers are realising that workplace equality for women benefits from targeted parenting support for men. We should be celebrating and learning from the great work this project has pioneered over the last 12 years - not closing them down. More than any other organisation it has helped to inspire the growing awareness in Scotland around the importance of men and fathers in the lives of their children and families.
And it’s not too late to save it! Already hundreds of men, woman and children across Scotland have signed a petition to stop the service from closing.
One of the signatories, 18-year-old Naomi Wallace, wrote: “It’s really helped me and my dad become closer… All the dads work so hard together and the kids love going on trips and having fun with their dads. Taking DadsWork away is like tearing apart a family.”
So don’t let it happen! Sign the petition today at www.change.org/en-GB/organisations/dadswork.
Media organisations, please contact David Drysdale, National Development Manager of Fathers Network Scotland, for more information and case studies: 0771 263 2081