I did see that interesting statistic. I do not want to get into the details of family make-up in a modern society, because I do not want us to inadvertently criticise those who are not in such relationships—it is important that we respect different family make-ups. The point that I wish to raise today is about fathers and the role that they play.
The excellent book on equal parenting co-authored by James Millar notes the “State of the World’s Fathers” report’s finding that
“fathers who report close, non-violent connections with their children live longer, have fewer mental or physical health problems…and report being happier than fathers who do not report this connection”.
Given the well-understood positive outcomes of fathers’ engagement in their children’s development, it is only right that we should have the infrastructure and systems in place to support them. As the CSJ report states, we need to collect more data at the point of birth to get a better understanding of participation by fathers, but also identify “cold spots” for investment in supporting father engagement.
We definitely need to be a bit more dad-friendly in our language and correspondence about children’s healthcare. I agree with the NSPCC that a “dad check” would be a valuable way for our health services to ensure that resources are open and accessible to new fathers. I also agree with the recommendation that NHS England should roll out schemes that increase support to fathers. That support should include either creating a new fatherhood fund or making the maternity challenge fund a general parental support fund and putting in additional investment.
The CSJ makes commendable recommendations for the Department of Health and Social Care to improve inspection frameworks, develop a dad test for the perinatal period and extend the reach of digital communications for new fathers. Those all seem sensible ideas; I accept that resources are always a challenge, but the long-term health and wellbeing outcomes must surely justify their consideration.