Dads’ health matters!

Sam Pooley

Sam Pooley, Engagement Officer at A Better Start Southend (ABSS), writes about the success their community event, “Dads’ Health Matters,” had in keeping dads in Southend both happy and healthy.

In Southend, there are many avenues of support that welcome men, including dads. Opportunities for engagement, signposting to local services, and providing platforms for peer-to-peer support dramatically enhance the parent journey of dads.

Our work within the A Better Start Southend Engagement Team has always looked to connect with, and represent, the voices of dads. Over the years, we have hosted many engagement events which have supported this, for example, the Dad’s Takeover at Shoebury Fire Station, sports days, and football sessions.

A focus on dads

Dad's Health Matters poster

However, in the last year, we have recognised that this work requires a more direct focus on our ABSS dads and have sought to develop more meaningful relationships with them. Conversations on mental health and wellbeing have regularly highlighted potential gaps in existing services, and a general feeling of being unseen and unheard is something that many dads struggle with.

‘Dads Health Matters’ was an idea created by the dads we have engaged with over the past year. It was designed to provide a safe space for them to feel welcome and comfortable in their surroundings. It became a space to listen and meet with local organisations, to make the most of the health checks, and to feel represented. The evening event was held at a local community venue, Twenty-One, and coincided with Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

Comedian John Ryan, an advocate for men’s mental health, compered the evening. He provided a balance of comedy and effective signposting, and created a relaxed atmosphere in which the dads felt they could share their stories.

The attendees

Our wide network in Southend enabled us to invite a variety of service providers and organisations:

  • ‘The Council for Voluntary Services’ (CVS) hosted the event, creating opportunities to network and connect by enabling all the services to come together in one place.
  • Ros and Kerry, from ABSS Specialist Health Visitors for Perinatal Mental Health, highlighted how the support they provide is not only for mums, but for dads too. By talking about the dad’s individual situations, they were able to refer them to other relevant organisations such as ‘Therapy for You’ for further support.
  • Five ‘Andy’s Man Club’ (AMC) members attended the evening, each of them bravely recounting personal stories that led them to join the group. The Southend group is one of 146 branches of AMC across the UK, providing informal weekly meet ups where men can meet, talk, cry, and laugh together.
  • Kay from ‘Wellbeing Garon Park’ provided information on wellbeing opportunities across their 19-acre site and the sessions created to provide calm, safe spaces for men, including woodwork sessions.
  • ‘Everyone Health Southend’ (EHS) were on site to offer mini health checks, including blood pressure and weight checks, as well as opportunities to learn more about the support that EHS provides.
  • Paul and Jordan from the ‘Your Family’ local community attended and were there to ensure that families were aware of the wider support that is available to them.
  • Southend Carers delivered a range of support for adults who provide unpaid care and support to elderly, disabled, or seriously ill family members or friends.
  • The Diabetic Nursing Team provided blood glucose and blood pressure checks throughout the evening.

We were pleased to welcome thirty dads and six partner organisations, and received positive feedback which we will use to shape further events for dads, such as:

“I thought the whole event was amazing. Very well run, a brilliant agenda and everyone was very respectful of one another in the room. It is a difficult conversation to have for men, but it has made me feel more confident to share my struggles with others.” (ABSS dad)
“It was a great set up and having a light-hearted nature to the event helped everyone to open up. It was well organised and a great event, I learnt a lot about myself and came away with excellent strategies. It was great to have all the organisations under one roof.” (ABSS dad)
“Super grateful that you guys do these things for Dads! Massive appreciation for the pizza and hot drinks. Thank you.” (ABSS dad)

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.