Labour MP David Lammy has claimed that the "chronic absence of support for young fathers in most areas of the country" is leaving swathes of teenage dads feeling alienated, inadequate and desperate for support.
In an essay written for national charity 4Children entitled ‘Young dads: overlooked, undercounted but out there’, he argues that family support programmes should go further to encourage collaborative parenting and engage fathers in their own right.
Within the essay, the former Minister for Higher Education and adviser to Labour leader Ed Miliband on fatherhood, argues that public policy and society’s expectations of young fathers continue to fall short of where they need to be.
He wrote: “It should never be acceptable for anyone to assume that a father will not be interested in their child simply because the father is young. Most young dads want to play a proper role in their children’s lives but need guidance, support and courage, as they often have limited positive parenting experiences to draw on from their own upbringing.
“It is time that we started to treat young dads as resources for their families and not potential risks to be managed. In an era of public austerity, we should be doing everything we can to involve the whole family in parenting a child, leading to less reliance on public services, troubled families teams and in some of the more extreme cases, the police. It is time for young dads to come in from the cold – to be counted, recognised and supported.”
'Young dads' makes a series of policy recommendations including:
o Government should legislate to make it a statutory requirement for local authorities to provide tailored services for young dads
o Public services should engage properly with young dads from antenatal classes onwards
o Data quantifying the number of young dads there are should be collected in a standardised way and used as the basis for a new statutory duty to engage with young parents, including fathers
o Government should use the provision in the Welfare Reform Act 2009 to require joint birth registration where this does not put the mother or child at risk
o Contractors for Government’s Work Programme should be incentivised to prioritise young dads
o Secondary schools should offer parenting classes to all pupils and government should revive the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy to include young men and women
o Government should think carefully about their provisions for legal aid in such family cases.
Commenting on the essay, Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executive of 4Children said: “Research from 4Children’s Family Commission found that one in four people believed that public services should be more welcoming to fathers. This is more important than ever when it comes to young fathers, many of whom already feel isolated, unconfident and judged.
“With public finances being squeezed to the limit, we must get better at achieving positive outcomes without a hefty price tag - by working with families in a holistic way, and at the earliest possible opportunity. If we fail to do this, problems will continue to spiral out of control, to the detriment of the child, family, communities and the public purse.”