Page last updated at 23:09 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 00:09 UK

Firms urged to give fathers time

Family doing homework
Many parents would like an equal role

Children's Secretary Ed Balls is calling on employers to make more time for fathers, so they can be more involved in their children's lives.

He wants firms to be aware fathers may need to take special leave when a child is sick or to attend a school event.

The call comes as a poll of 500 fathers shows three quarters want information relevant to them as well as mothers.

And 77% want public services to open longer so they can learn about and contribute to their child's welfare.

Mr Balls is due to chair a summit to discuss fatherhood at Westminster on Tuesday morning.

'Equal role'

It is part of his department's 'Think Fathers' campaign which aims to encourage public services to recognise the role fathers can play in children's lives.

Research suggests that if fathers are involved in their children's lives at the age of seven, they will do better at school.

The ICM poll of 500 fathers suggests today's fathers want to play an increasing role in their children's health and education but find it difficult to do so.

Some 77% would like to see mothers and fathers equally involved in parenting rather than one being the main carer.

The poll showed younger fathers in particular were unhappy with the health and education services.

'Sidelined'

Only 41% were happy with their involvement with schools, while 74% thought information on children's services was more geared towards mothers than fathers.

Adrienne Burgess, research manager at think-tank Fatherhood Institute, which commissioned the poll, said: "The fact that the younger generation of Dads are more involved with services yet less happy with the level of their involvement and with the way services treat them, doesn't mean services are getting worse: it means that the expectations of today's fathers are changing.

"They're more ambitious to play a greater role, and more upset and undermined when they're sidelined.

"Services, and employers, need to take this new mood among Dads on board so they can be fully hands on with their children.

"Fathers want it; mothers want it; children want it. And society needs it."



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