There is little involvement of fathers in most Sure Start
programmes, and when fathers do become involved it is usually in
activities aimed specially at them.
New research for the Department for Education and Skills found
that 80 per cent of programmes reported low father involvement.
Although staff were keen to increase fathers’ involvement
because they felt it would help children, many said the importance
of engaging men had got lost in the rush to get the programmes up
and running for mothers and children.
Programmes in which fathers were more heavily involved were
those which had decided from early on in the planning that fathers
would be central, and where everyone across the programme was
committed to making contact with fathers and involving them.
Research shows that when fathers are involved in caring for their
young children, even if they don’t live with them, there are
long term benefits for the children. Children whose fathers were
giving their children attention, emotional support, consistent
discipline and help when they needed it at age seven were less
likely to be in trouble with the police as teenagers and less
likely to be homeless or have mental health problems as adults.
Fathers who did use Sure Start programmes tended to be those who
needed it most – single fathers and those who were the main
carers. But they sometimes had to contend with suspicious attitudes
about their motives, and were also often the butt of jokes among
the women. Some mothers were ambivalent about the presence of men
in Sure Start projects because of concerns about domestic violence
and child abuse.
A member of staff dedicated to involving fathers was helpful and
had helped local programmes identify and respond to issues that
affected them such as bereavement, concerns about child development
and anger management.
Read a summary of the research at