Early Parenthood: Supporting Fathers — [Geraint Davies in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:59 am on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton 9:59 am, 30th January 2019

It is so important that we do what we can. In the very short time that I have left, I will touch on some of the practical policies in “A Manifesto to Strengthen Families”, which over 60 Members of Parliament support, and express a degree of frustration that the Government have not taken them up more practically. I know that individual Cabinet Ministers are very interested, but in order to see some real progress we need a senior Cabinet-level Minister who is responsible for drawing together the manifesto’s several policies.

I will touch on some of the manifesto’s policies on fathers. Policies 8, 9 and 11 talk about promoting the importance of active fatherhood in a child’s life. Policy 8 says:

“Maternity services should maximise opportunities to draw fathers-to-be in early.”

Policy 9 proposes that, where appropriate,

“The Government should…require all fathers to be included on birth certificates.”

Policy 11 proposes that “high quality marriage preparation” should be available at a cost-effective rate for young people thinking of getting married.

Finally, one of our key policies is the promotion of family hubs. As we have heard, children’s centres are not always as effective as they need to be. Families need support bringing up children, not just aged nought to five, but nought to 19. In the teenage years particularly, the input by fathers into their sons’ lives is often critical. We believe that it would be really positive to have family hubs in each local community, to support families at every stage of a child’s development.

I am disappointed that the Government have not taken that up more strongly. We shall continue to persevere and to press them to do so. The good news is that many local authorities have taken up those ideas very strongly and family hubs are springing up across the country. I invite colleagues to a family hubs fair, which will take place on 14 February. It is convened by Westminster City Council, which is setting up its own family hubs. The fair will flagship best practice from local authorities across the country that have set up family hubs, specifically to show how we can best support families with children. I am sure that there will be many examples of how we can best support fathers to engage in their sons’ lives, which is such an important thing on which we need to focus.