Mencare Too

Dads Club

The experience of being on holiday and observing the differences in the way fathers and mothers interacted with their children had a profound effect on Kenny Spence, the founder and manager of the Lone Fathers’ Club in Edinburgh.

The dads were very active with the kids, jumping into the pool and what not, while the mums were much more sedentary. It made me realise that it is very difficult for dads to simply sit and talk to very young children – they want to be doing something more active, playing in the pool, kicking a ball around or going to the park with them.

This inspired Kenny to consider very carefully the needs of fathers who were separated from their children, from which the Lone Fathers’ Club − or the “Dads’ Club emerged.

The Dads’ Club is an activity-based group for single and contact fathers (that is, those who have contact with their children only on a limited basis) in Edinburgh.

The dads meet on a Saturday morning and go with their kids to do something active – visiting the zoo or a safari park, for instance. We have a Fathers’ Worker, Brock Luek who joins them, and he’s there to offer advice and do some individual work with the dads.

We’ve been working in this field for some time now, and have seen that trying to get dads to come to coffee mornings and such like is very difficult. But if you give a dad a challenge or something to do, he’ll turn up. That’s how it works.

We believe the work the group does is very much focused on supporting vulnerable families.

When families are breaking up, it’s a very vulnerable time. The fathers and the children face challenges in terms of their own attachment, and there may be other things going on in the dads’ lives – unemployment, for instance – that are impacting on them in a big way. So we see the service we provide as offering support to people who are in a difficult situation.

Father and Child

The group is a partnership involving the voluntary organisation One Parent Families Scotland and the Gilmerton Child & Family Centre in Edinburgh, a local authority setting for under-fives from families experiencing difficulties. Funding is supplied from the City of Edinburgh Council, and the group has been running for around 15 years.

It’s an extremely good partnership, and a very successful formula. One Parent Families Scotland provides a lot of support to single parents, and part of its work is to focus on dads. The Child & Family Centre has a key focus on supporting families, and the Dads’ Group enables us to look at the needs of fathers as part of that overall service.

The group has become well known in the Edinburgh area over its lifespan and referrals are now received from solicitors, sheriffs, social workers, and health visitors in addition to fathers applying on their own.

We are completely impartial in relation to fathers’ domestic circumstances. We just want to support them through what is a very difficult time. It’s good for the dads, but it’s also good for their kids, because the children get the best of their fathers at a pleasant time, which helps develop positive connections.

Kenny and his colleagues have received very positive feedback about the group. The fathers tell us that the group gives them an opportunity to spend real quality time with their children, something they value enormously. But it also gives them the chance to interact with other men in similar situations and to talk things through with the Fathers’ Worker. That’s very important in helping them to resolve difficulties without having to, for instance, resort to the legal process.

When we asked one father what advice he would give to other lone dads, he said: ‘be there for your children and always support them.’ The reason for the group can’t be summed up better than that.