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Improving Futures sets its sights on fathers

17 December 2013

How is the Big Lottery Fund’s Improving Futures programme impacting upon the lives of children and their families across the UK? Having been commissioned to carry out a five-year evaluation, in the new year the project team are releasing an updated paper focused on supporting fathers.

In this guest blog, Jimi Odell of Family Lives explains more about recent research and an upcoming free webinar for those with an interest in the families and early years care.

Fathers are one of the most overlooked demographics in parenting support with many services branded for and targeted at mums with no specific measures in place to ensure dads come along too. But even when engagement with mothers is high on a service’s agenda and practitioners say they believe it’s important to work with fathers too, research has found that they often fail to do so.

A father kisses his child

Improving Futures in focusing on fathers

Recent research shows that when parenting practitioners work with fathers as well as mothers, the positive effects on children are greatly increased.

Services that are set up primarily for mothers – whether intentionally or not – are learning to change how they plan, market and deliver their services so that fathers feel more welcome and able to attend and access valuable learning resources to support their children.

Some practitioners may hold the view that fathers spend less time with their children than mothers do and are less involved in their children’s lives, both emotionally and practically.

While there is some truth in this, recent research has looked into this more deeply and the reasons behind it are discussed in the forthcoming paper for family practitioners on ‘Engaging with fathers’.

It will also feature eight key recommendations for improving father engagement and include new material that reflects recent research and aims to support the 26 projects involved in Improving Futures and their work with fathers.

The paper also sets out to demonstrate the importance of engaging fathers in family support services and offers some practical tips on how to go about doing this. We hope that other service providers outside of the project will also find this useful.

In addition, practitioners are invited to attend a free webinar on 19 December 2013 hosted by Parenting UK. It will feature a representative from one of the 26 funded projects, The Enfield Family Turnaround Project, who will be giving an insight into how they rebranded their services to and targeted dads in the local area.

The webinar is open to anyone who works with families or has an interest in this area of work and wants to learn more about engaging fathers. All participants will be invited to discuss their experiences and challenges of working with fathers.

The final paper will be made publicly available once case studies have been collected and reviewed. Anyone wishing to submit case studies is invited to attend the webinar or contacting me at Parenting UK by emailing:

Jimi Odell is Digital Communication and Research Officer at Family Lives.

Improving Futures was launched in 2011 with a £26m investment from the Big Lottery Fund to support families with multiple and complex needs. 26 local projects are developing new approaches to support 10,000 families around the country, sharing best practice as they adapt and evolve.

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