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Tel. 0131 664 1202 - le-mail: colin@meninchildcare.com

Men in Childcare is a registered charity no. SCO38642 - Funded by The Scottish Government and City of Edinburgh Council




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Since January 2001 our project has been responsible for childcare training for over 1,200 men. They have come from all walks of life, from Bank Managers to Bus Drivers and from Banff to the Borders. Very few having ever worked in childcare and the vast majority thinking they never could.

What have we done differently ?
We haven’t changed the qualifications.
But we have changed the training.
We haven’t improved the salary.
Only because we can’t.
We haven’t improved working conditions.
But we have introduced support

What have we done ? Why the success?
We directly aimed our advertising at men.
We responded quickly.
We were able to speak to them at each and every stage of their training.
We provided support.
We were able to provide a complete pathway of training.
We established good relationships with colleges.


Media versus leaflets.
Daily or weekly.
Other forms of advertising - radio.


Men will respond in numbers.
Quick turn around has been effective.
Follow up class absenteeism.

Communication and Support

Face to Face and telephone support for Students.
Meetings with College Lecturers.
All course fees met.


Induction Course -16 weeks evening class - 2 hours per week
Fast Track Courses
HNC in Childcare & Education - HNC
Caring for Young Children

Intro Course - 16 weeks, 2 hours per week, accredited (evenings)
Fast Track Course -16 weeks, accredited (evenings)
HNC full time or part time, 2 evenings per week (where possible) with weekend and holiday placements.

International Approach

Men In Childcare have now established live links with other organisations throughout the world.
Resulting in a sharing of ideas and with colleagues from contributing to our conferences.


Are there benefits from having men in childcare?

Children could benefit because of a male perspective, men and women are different.
Fathers could benefit because they have someone to relate to and may feel more at ease.
More gender balanced staff group different ways of looking at issues.

Issues for children

Many children now grow up in one parent household and maybe don’t meet a man in a caring role until secondary school.
Male children often are told they are like the absent father no good, this can leave a sense of no self worth.
Male children like to run jump play fight in day care setting this is often not encouraged.
We celebrate differences culturally yet often not about gender. Equal opportunities.


Research done suggests fathers often find family centre’s and nurseries too feminine and not male friendly
Men often feel they are having difficulty parenting without requiring reinforcement
Woman with bad experiences benefit from meeting safe males

Staff Groups

Regular discussion with staff teams working with pre-fives suggests that more of a gender balance would facilitate different approaches.
It can also provide an opportunity to see a different perspective from both sides of an argument - quite simply, men are different.

Edinburgh Lone Fathers' Project

Project worker : Thomas Carrol - 07796 212498

Supervisors: Ian Maxwell, Deputy Director (One Parent Families Scotland - 0131 556 3899)

Kenny Spence, Manager (Gilmerton Children and Families Centre - 0131 664 1202)

The Edinburgh Lone Fathers Project is a Sure-Start funded project. It is jointly managed by Kenny Spence at Gilmerton Childrens and Families Centre and Ian Maxwell from One Parent Families Scotland. Rather than using centre-based groupwork for parenting support, we planned a programme of sport, visits and outdoor activities, all activities that would allow the fathers to take part alongside their children.

When the project first announced itself in SouthEast Edinburgh we expected a stampede. The reality was that the solitary Dad and his kids who did take advantage of the initiative must have been pretty bored of my company after the first few weeks.
Two years make a difference. To date, we support or have supported over fifty families. This may not appear a high figure. However, if you consider that the average family has more than three members, then the numbers become more significant. In addition there are innumerable individuals how have phoned looking for advice and in their words ''to get a weight of my mind.'' Many of the callers commented that they appreciated ''having another man to talk to.''

In order to attract more lone Dads, the poster campaign had to be supplemented with something extra. By using the expertise and resources at both Gilmerton and at One Parent Families Scotland we were able to establish contact with a number of families. By accompanying nursery officers from the children's centre and Health Visitors on home visits, I could explain the ethos behind the initiative and possible benefits. I believe the home visits were crucial in attracting the lone Dads. They felt comfortable and at ease in their home environment, and were receptive to the ideas and suggestions offered. When asked if they had seen any of the posters advertising the project, they answered in the affirmative, but did not feel comfortable using the children's centre or indeed any statutory agency.
The reasons were varied and complex. The most common reasons were that they preferred to talk to a man, that they could not identify with the centre. Most common was that when they had previously used statutory or voluntary agencies they felt disempowered, that they had not been listened to, and were ''not part of the process.'' They felt that they were not being listened to and their point of view disregarded - ''you're just the sperm donor'' one Dad was informed by a social worker.
After making initial contact the Dads were invited into either the children's centre or the OPFS offices for a very informal chat in order that the issues and concerns could be discussed. Much of what the Dads disclosed was strikingly similar. They shared many common hopes, fears and issues.

Low levels of self-esteem and self-confidence.

A perception that they are less able at parenting than a mother.

Many feel that if awarded residency, they are reluctant to ask for help
as they do not want to be viewed as deficient or unable to cope.

Feelings of being unsupported during the legal process, and frustrated after it.

They feel that many agencies are happier or more accustomed to dealing with the mum rather than the dad.

Housing is a major issue, particularly overcrowding and homelessness.
These issues affect contact fathers more so than lone fathers.

Unaware of benefit entitlement.

Lack of familial and peer support.

Isolation, feelings of not belonging and feeling unwelcome.

The biggest fear the majority of the dads have is that of the legal system. Many are unaware of their legal status. ''Unmarried fathers have no legal rights whatsoever in relation to their children unless they have made a legally binding agreement with the mother or obtained a court order''(1) Unmarried fathers can apply for a Parental Responsibility Agreement, if both parents are in agreement. However, many of the dads have left acrimonious relationships and a parental responsibility agreement is therefor difficult to obtain. They fear that although they are nurturing their children as best they can, their position as main carer is insecure and fragile. The future difficulties and uncertainties lead to the whole family feeling emotionally vulnerable.

For the overwhelming majority of dads their hopes are for their children to have a better, more fulfilling life than they have had. They want their children to achieve their potential, to grow happy and content in a safe secure and comfortable environment. Above all they want to ''be there for them.''

The issues mentioned are only a few of the concerns that effect their day-to-day lives. It was vital therefore, that we established strong links with both the voluntary and public sector services from which the families may benefit. Many of the dads use the expertise available at the children's centre for practical parenting advice and as a gateway to accessing health visitors, social services and specific children's services. Staff at OPFS offices offer invaluable help regarding benefit entitlements, careers advice and practical financial advice. Both agencies are used as a medium for referral.
Our collaborative approach has meant that we now work together with agencies on a local and national level. Housing Associations, food co-operatives, health agencies, further education establishments, family lawyers, drug agencies and trust funds. The list is endless and reflects the complexity of the group.

The impact on the families has been significant, the self-confidence and self -esteem amongst the group continues to grow. Dads who feared the future now embrace it and have a positive perception of themselves. Children who were withdrawn, had behavioural or emotional problems have been acknowledged and referred on to the appropriate agencies. Many of the Dads no longer perceive themselves as ''deficient'', ''we know we're on the right track, we're getting there.'' Many simply needed
Reassurance - to be told that they were doing okay.
Many of the Dads use the project as a way of socialising. Meeting other Dads provides a forum for peer support and practical parenting advice. The advice is tried and tested, if one family have benefited from a particular resource, the other Dads are more inclined to use it.

As the numbers using the project have increased so to have the referrals to a multitude of agencies in and around Edinburgh. Families who were previously homeless and in need of furniture, have been housed and furnished. The emotional security and stability offered by a safe, clean and comfortable environment which you call 'home' cannot be underestimated.

A number of the Dads have children who have special needs. As a priority, respite and sitter services have been secured. Holidays in the Highlands and week-end breaks in Blackpool have brought much needed relief and enjoyment to numerous families. Funding for the trips was secured from a number of trust funds. Namely, The Prince's Trust, The Glasspool Trust and Children in Need.

Financial hardship has been softened by an increasing awareness of the benefits system. Many of the families who use the project were unaware of their entitlements. Accessing the relevant advice and information available at the OPFS offices has impacted on the families directly. Many of the children are now in receipt of Disability Living Allowance. This benefit has made a very positive difference to many lives. The disability income group has provided an invaluable service when wading through the application forms.

Initially many of the Dads used the project as an advocacy service as they did not feel confident enough to deal with certain agencies on their own. They are now confident enough to challenge their children's behaviour and ask for professional help when needed. Previously they viewed a request for help as some display of weakness or being unable to cope.

The children are an integral part of the Project. They are encouraged to express their own opinions, are given the time and space to talk, and to appreciate and acknowledge their peer group. They benefit indirectly, through their Dads. Whichever resource or service their Dad chooses to access they will benefit from by proxy. They also benefit from having a less stressed Dad.

The midweek and Saturday trips are what the kids look forward to the most. It is the kids who dictate where we go and over the past two years I'm sure that we have exhausted most of the places in East and Central Scotland where kids would be attracted. From stroking llamas in Blair Drummond to pottery making in Marchmont, soft play and water remain the most popular visits. That said, both Tammi and her sister Mary-anne, aged three and four respectively, have yet to grasp that a visit to Disneyland Paris would burst the budget for the year!


The future for the Edinburgh Lone Fathers Project is bright. A number of Dads have realised that they are now confident to move on to more challenging issues in their lives. Employment is now a reality. One Dad has gone on to buy a cheap car and start a small cleaning business, another a very competent salesman. Others no longer "have to fight their own Demons". They realise that many other families are in similar situations as themselves. The feelings of isolation and frustration become more remote as they focus on all the positives in their lives. Further collaboration and partnership with the childrens centre, youth agencies, family mediation, family service units, schools and social work is inevitable.

Further funding from Sure Start has provided a space in the newly converted "old library" in Gilmerton. This space has been designed with young children at its core, it is a space where kids can access toys and educational resources, a book and toy library, and take advantage of the staff provided by Gilmerton Children Centre. A development worker and art therapist are on hand to provide specialist information and support.

The Project continues to grow and is genuinely dynamic. The approach has been to work with where the families are in their lives, not where we want them or imagine them to be.

It was reported in recent Sunday broadsheets that a survey by The Equal Opportunities Commission reveals a new genre: the New Dad. The new Dad comes in four categories: the Enforcer Dad, the Entertainer Dad, the Useful Dad, and finally, the Fully Involved Dad.

In it unlikely that any of the Dads that use this Project fit neatly into the above categories. They don’t want to be viewed as either one type of Dad or the other. What they want is to be acknowledged, to feel that they have a positive contribution to make to society and, above all, to be viewed not just as a good Dad but as a good parent.