Helping dads make a difference 

Dads at the conference
From the back (l-r): local dads Scott Holden; Norman Mealing; Jarrod Crompton; Simon Jones; Raj Sundaram; and Rick Clare, and Dirk Uitterdijk from the Fatherhood Institute.

Bolton’s first ever conference aimed specifically at dads was held earlier this week at the Reebok Stadium.

On Tuesday, the Difference a Dad Makes conference saw local fathers, Bolton Council officers, and members of the Fatherhood Institute come together to explore how the Bolton’s children’s centres could encourage fathers to get more involved in their children’s lives.

The council runs 15 children’s centres and, although the centres are very popular with mums, they are keen to make sure that they are equally attractive for dads. They teamed up with the institute to consult dads about how they could be encouraged to get involved.

Feedback showed that dads were often unaware of the number of services that children’s centres provide and that they are often free. Also, although there are male members of staff at the centres, dads would like to see more.

Bolton dad and granddad Norman Mealing took part in the consultation and attended the conference to share his story. His daughter uses Kearsley Children’s Centre regularly and recently encouraged Norman to attend a dads’ group with his grandson.

Norman explained: “At first I was a bit apprehensive, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I went along. We arrived and were welcomed really warmly by the staff, who showed us in and set us up playing.

“We were the first there and then another father arrived with his son, the boys started playing together and we got chatting, and before I knew it the two hours were up and it was time to go. We both really enjoyed it and I’ll definitely be going again.”

Councillor Madeline Murray, Executive Member for Looked After Children and Safeguarding, said: “Making dads feel fully involved in raising a child is so important, and our children’s centres do a great job.

”Hopefully this conference and the work that will follow will raise awareness among Bolton’s fathers about the service the centres provide, and make them feel more welcome.”

Ideas from the conference included: working with dads who use the centres as ambassadors in the workplace; providing a manual to new fathers to give them useful information and advice; and directing dads to the support available from children’s centres.

The council is looking to make a number of the ideas raised at the conference happen in the new year as part of a dedicated campaign to make more mums, dads and carers across Bolton aware of the full extent of services at their local children’s centre.

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George Wright
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