New dads in Nottingham - an information pack for new fathers

Felicity Callon, Father Inclusivity Senior Project Officer at Small Steps Big Changes Nottingham, writes about their strategy to ensure dads feel supported in their parenting role.

Listening to dads

Felicity Callon

In early 2022, Small Steps Big Changes (SSBC) developed an ambitious strategy to ensure that dads in Nottingham felt supported in their parenting role. The starting point for this work, was a consultation [1] commissioned by SSBC to find out what support and information fathers felt they needed, their experiences of maternity and child services and how well their mental health needs were being met. The findings from this consultation helped us to identify gaps in the system and the approach required to meet the needs of dads.

Key learning from this consultation was that fathers didn’t know where to go for information that was trustworthy, and often relied on their partners for this. This suggested that the issue was not the availability of information, but rather how easy it is for dads to access it.

Comments from dads following the consultation included:

  • “There is a wealth of information out there, but there’s also a risk of things being misleading. We need verified accounts giving out information that is trustworthy”.
  • “I just want a one stop shop for information… spending time looking for information means you’re not with your kids.”

An information pack for new fathers

Man reading SSBC information pack

In response to comments like the two above, ‘An information pack for new fathers’ was developed. This pack provides fathers with evidence-based information, supports them in their transition to fatherhood and signposts them to local services for further support. The pack is designed to be read in the perinatal period from 28 weeks pregnancy to 6 weeks postnatally.

Included in the pack are chapters on wellbeing and bonding, finances and employment, feeding and home safety. It offers activities and signposts to credible sources for further reading. It addresses some of the main themes of the consultation including mental health and the sense of feeling involved in the parenting transition, including labour and birth.

The pack is written for a reading age that matches that of the local population and includes images which reflect the local Nottingham communities. It is also available in both print and download versions in Arabic, English, Kurdish, Polish, Romanian, Tigrinya and Urdu as these are the most prevalent spoken languages in Nottingham.

With a focus on the perinatal period, the pack has been distributed across child and family health services, including within maternity services (antenatal and postnatal) and shared widely with local partners to ensure that it reaches as many dads as possible. This has not been without difficulty however, as storing large numbers of a printed handbook requires space, and some of our partners have found it difficult to accommodate this. Making it available to download has therefore been invaluable in bridging this gap.

Responses to the pack

Since being launched, the pack has been met with enthusiasm both from dads and practitioners alike.

  • “Of course, I didn’t know a lot of things in this Pack before now. I didn’t know a lot of things. (I would) say like 60-70% of things in this Pack I didn’t know about” (Parent.)
  • “I’ve had grandads read the book where there’s not dad involved, and because I could say I’ve been throwing them at everybody, like when I’m in Tesco at the checkout the other week. So yeah… it’s good for male role models as well” (Family Mentor)

Practitioners have also commented that giving the pack to dads as part of their initial consultations with the family has meant that dads have felt more included from the start. This has helped build relationships and bridged the gap between dads/ male partners and what is a largely female dominated workforce. The workforce has also expressed that the pack has helped grow their confidence when engaging with male partners, as they can use it as a tool to allow easier dialogue with them around key public health messages. This in in turn enabled further engagement and dialogue with this group.

In 2022, Nottingham Trent University’s ‘Nottingham Centre for Children, Young People, and Families’ (NCCYPF) carried out an evaluation of the pack. Overall, their findings were positive with dads describing the resource as valuable, packed with evidence-based information, and a resource that they can refer to as they progress in their parenting journey.

As a response to this evaluation, and as part of SSBC’s ambitions around sustainability, we are now revising the original content to make it more accessible for a national audience, whilst maintaining the integrity of its original aim.

Nottingham Dads can be very proud of their contribution in making this a project to shout about and share!

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.

[1] Dali-Chaouch, M and Jarvie, M (2021) Consultation with Fathers, Coram Family and Childcare