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Research recommends wider roll out of services to bridge the gap for young fathers

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A research study conducted by Leeds Trinity University has found that a support programme designed for young fathers is effective and recommends that similar models could be used more widely.

Professor Carmen Clayton.

The ‘Dads at their Best’ (DATB) programme was developed in 2021 by Swindon Borough Council to address a gap in provision for young fathers by supporting young men in a more holistic way, with the aim of breaking down barriers to young fathers’ engagement and access to service provision.

This includes early engagement of young fathers, motivational interviewing, weekly supervision, monthly psychology supervision, weekly team meetings, tripartite safeguarding supervision with a named nurse, and specialised skills development. 

The programme started enrolling young fathers in April 2022.  A year later, a qualitative evaluation of DATB was undertaken, led by Professor Carmen Clayton and Kerry Fletcher at Leeds Trinity University. The research aimed to understand the effectiveness of the programme, whether there are examples of good practice that could be shared, and if any improvements are needed.

The findings have now been published and show that the DATB approach provides effective and intensive support to first time young fathers and young fathers-to-be within the Swindon area.

The report has highlighted positive outcomes for young fathers, children, and wider service provision as a result of DATB input and support.  The evaluation confirms that the programme has the potential to be developed and extended nationally, working in conjunction with local services to deliver accessible and effective service support to young fathers.  

Carmen Clayton, Professor of Family and Cultural Dynamics at Leeds Trinity University who led the study, said: “The research has shown that young fathers are heavily committed to the fatherhood role and they aspire to be the best father that they can be.

“With appropriate service support in place, young fathers have been able to engage with professionals to improve their parenting and childcare skills, leading to positive outcomes for the whole family. The young fathers’ dedication to the fatherhood role challenges negative perceptions and stereotypes of young men as parents often seen in existing media.”

The report highlights that young fatherhood is recognised as a cause and consequence of social exclusion, health inequalities, and ‘NEET’ (Not in Education, Employment or Training) status, all of which can significantly impact upon the father’s and child’s wellbeing and future outcomes.

By supporting young fathers appropriately and effectively, professionals can play a significant role in helping young men to build and develop their skills as parents and to improve the parent-child relationship.

One of the participants featured in the research highlighted the impact of this engagement: “The other health professional is not always available, but you can guarantee we’ll always see the specialist young fatherhood support worker at least once a week, so we can go to them for a lot of our questions.”

DATB was developed to provide a permanent, sustainable, and embedded specialist service for young fathers in Swindon that improves outcomes for young men, their children, and partners.  It aims to increase professionals’ awareness of young fathers and their support needs, leading to better informed, inclusive, and equitable service provision in Swindon. The full report can be found here.

This qualitative evaluation is the latest in a series of research projects led by Professor Clayton on young fatherhood.  Read more on the Leeds Trinity website.

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