Sunday, 7 March, 2004, 13:20 GMT

Fathers are 'ignored', says study
Father with baby
Fathers are often undervalued, the study claims
Institutional sexism is damaging the educational prospects and social development of youngsters, according to research from a children's charity.

The study, by Newcastle-based Children North East, says subconscious practices disregard the needs of men and fail to recognise the role of fathers.

In other cases, conscious discrimination labels men as "dangerous oppressors" or "perpetrators".

The full findings are to be revealed at a conference in Newcastle on 11 March.


Joy Higginson, director of Children North East said: "Fathers are important for families, yet almost all formal support to parents is offered only to mothers - with deep-seated sexism in social and health services actively discriminating against men.

" Cuts to the Children's Fund programme across the country have resulted in many promising pieces of work with fathers being terminated "
Joy Higginson, Children North East

"This flies in the face of evidence which shows pre-school children whose fathers are actively engaged and accessible are more competent, more empathetic, more self confident, and less stereotyped in their gender roles."

An international conference in Newcastle on 11 March aims to challenge current thinking and influence policy makers.

A keynote address by Australian academic Richard Fletcher - recently appointed to rewrite the country's national gender equity policies - will highlight the increasing awareness globally of fatherhood issues.

The year long research study, carried out by social scientist Barry Knight with funding from the Millfield House Foundation, looked at the work of the Fathers Plus project, which was set up in 1997 by Children North East.

Social intervention

Ms Higginson added: "Fathers Plus has set itself a 10-year timeline to transform practice towards men in family services.

"This is vital, since current practice falls short of the ideals of diversity and inclusivity that are at the heart of good social intervention.

"Cuts to the Children's Fund programme across the country have resulted in many promising pieces of work with fathers being terminated.

"This clearly demonstrates that work with fathers is a long way from being embedded in practice and is seen as expendable when the pressure is on.

"And when you read newspaper headlines reporting changes in the law governing IVF treatment, which proclaim fathers are no longer required, the scale of the problem becomes apparent.

"Funded by the Netherlands-based Bernard van Leer Foundation, Fathers Plus remains unique as a project of a regional children's charity that has developed work at practitioner and policy level.

"It is virtually the only practice-based project working on a regional basis in the UK, and it has done much to contribute to developments in fathering both nationally and internationally."