NCT response: Green Paper 'Support for All'

Released on: 20 July 2011

The Department for Schools and Families today released a Green Paper entitled ‘Support for All – the Families and Relationships Green Paper’, which is a package of measures designed to help the 21st century family.

The main proposals announced today include:

• Improving flexible working for parents and family friendly employment rights
• A review of the family justice system to look at alternative ways for family conflicts to be dealt with out of the courts
• Immediate steps to offer separating parents more mediation support to prevent and reduce disputes
• Giving grandparents more recognition, improved legal rights for access and a dedicated website
• Helping dads get more involved in their child’s birth and up-bringing, including a new Dads Guide to give to all new fathers.

Elizabeth Duff, Public Policy Officer, NCT, says;

“The NCT welcomes the Government’s focus on families and increased support for new parents both with flexible working and with helping dads to be more involved in the birth and early years of their child.

“Parents across the country struggle with the day to day reality of balancing work and family life. There has been increasing recognition of the dual responsibilities of workers who are also parents. However, employees - both men and women - are still afraid to ask for flexible working in case it affects their chances of promotion or of losing their jobs.

“Becoming a father for the first time is a major life event for men. The birth of a baby changes relationships in the family, brings new responsibilities and rewards, and often has a major economic impact. It can be a time of joy, celebration and pride but equally it can be a time of stress, anxiety and upheaval.  Of parents supported by NCT, more than one in four are dads (28%).

“Men have their own needs as new fathers, they also need to know about what their partner is experiencing and how they can support her. Both these aspects are helped by the NCT through provision of information, antenatal classes and networks that enable parents-to-be to meet with others on a local basis. Often fathers gain further knowledge and confidence by talking to other dads.

“Research shows clearly that fathers have a central role to play in family life and child development. Services should engage new dads as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed and encourage them to learn about the stages of development as the baby is growing, and how they can be of support during the labour and birth. Then they can be involved in care of the new baby, including comforting and soothing, skin to skin contact, bathing and nappy changing.

"Fathers need information that is relevant to how their baby is being fed, including the key role they can play in supporting breastfeeding. Research shows that fathers’ views can influence whether a mother starts to breastfeed and mums will continue to breastfed for longer if they have the support of their partner

"NCT is aware that not all mothers live with the father of their baby, and involvement may be challenging. However, even occasional contact between father and child can be beneficial and help to maintain a relationship. The time around the birth of a baby can be motivating for both parents to make lifestyle changes that will improve their health, and any such opportunity can be encouraged by service providers.

"Based on the NCT’s 50 year experience of working with parents (both fathers and mothers or other partners) it is essential that all parents are fully prepared for the experience of becoming parents and that experience enriches their lives and enables them to be confident in their new roles.

“The NCT believes it’s important that women in labour are given support throughout so they can feel calm, relaxed and reassured. Many women feel that having their partner or father of the child present will enable them to feel secure and confident during the birth. For many fathers being present at the birth allows them the opportunity to bond with their new baby and to feel a part of the new baby’s life from the start. NCT supports fathers being allowed to remain overnight with mother and baby after the birth; we know that this is something both mothers and fathers want and is one reason some couples decide to have their baby at home.

"The NCT has been instrumental in helping dads play a key role in early family life, starting with the birth of their child. Since the 1950s, over a generation of babies have been born with their fathers in the delivery room thanks to campaigning from the NCT charity to allow dads to attend the birth. This is now common practice today with over 97% of fathers attending their child’s birth.”