David Cameron and Father’s Day

When David Cameron wrote this in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph about absent Fathers, the BBC asked OnlyDads to go to a news studio and respond. (a summary of the news item can be found here)

As many of you reading this will appreciate, OnlyDads offers supports and direction to Dads (in various domestic situations) to help keep relationships with their children alive and positive. We come across Dads with legal, financial, employment, geographical, and other related barriers that make nurturing enduring relationships with their children difficult.

We have met Dads who live thousands of miles from their children after mums have moved abroad with them, and Dads whose relationship with their children has been reduced to the occasional visit to a contact centre (if Mum turns up with the children!) or the odd session on Skype. After the news item yesterday, I spoke to a Dad who hasn’t seen his son and daughter for years, not because he is feckless, but because there are chronic mental health issues which have not been sorted out. This Dad told me “I will always be here for my children even if I can’t see them”

I will never forget the conversation I had with a dad who phoned the OnlyDads office on Boxing Day (I nipped into the office for 30 mins to pick up any crisis messages) When I got there the ‘phone was ringing. The Dad on the other end of the line told me he only sees his son a few times a year. He was going to be with his son later that day. His voice started to tremble. He went on to tell me (by this stage in tears) that “he didn’t know how to love his son anymore”

Does these men stigmatising? Do their children need society to stigmatise them?

…No answer needed!

You may remember the Panorama programme on absent dads. Like me, you probably anticipated an informed bit of television on why so many Dads have little or no contact with their children post divorce/separation. Rather, we were treated to an hour-long programme centered on some cartoon-like character who couldn’t even remember his kids names!

That programme, like David Cameron’s views expressed yesterday, are knee-jerk viewpoints which add little to the research that is needed on an altogether more serious and complicated issue.

I drove to the TV studio more depressed than angry. Of course there are some idiot dads out there. But they represent a tiny minority. There are serious issues here and if as a society we really (I mean REALLY) want to put our children first, we have got work to do!

I don’t want a Prime Minister who thinks “stigmatising” anyone is good government. My message to David Cameron is a simple one:

Find out why the problem of absent father’s exists, then provide support and resources to facilitate solutions.  Oh, and take the jack boots off!

As always – would love to hear your views. Your comments always add value!

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About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
This entry was posted in Bob blogs, Putting children first. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to David Cameron and Father’s Day

  1. fleetwoodboy says:

    Good one Bob. I’m Tory voter but I was dismayed to see the headlines in the Sunday Telegraph. My first remark to my wife was what about the mothers who do the same. Weknow there are some dads who are like he says but please David look at the broader picture before mouthing off. I’m suprised his pr people let that thru as it is

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you…there are issues about (an increasing number) of Mums not raising their children. But again, there are usually real issues about why this is so.

      I am not sure why his advisors didn’t redraft his words. They have offended so many dads!

      Bob

  2. rugbymadsdad says:

    Brilliat piece well written and I agree with you….thank you for taking the time to write this……

  3. onlydads says:

    Thank you for your kind comment.

    This was not his finest hour!

    Bob

  4. MongoliaMan says:

    Great responce. I am a residential dad who is passionate about fathering. Cameron needs to build bridges and not alienate men who are already in hard to reach situations. These dads pile enough shame on themsleves they don’t need the Goverment to add to it. Find solutions Cameron and be a social father not a social bully.

  5. David says:

    David Cameron was way off base. He wouldn’t dream of criticising mother on or near Mothers Day. We saw the failures of Thatchers CSA when trying to penalise or catch Deadbeat Dads. It’s not about making feckless fathers pay up for their responsibility, it’s about making sure children and their parents are afforded the support and ability to truly care for their own kids. Too many hurdles post separation create what look like feckless dads, and angel suffering mothers, but look closer and ask why and what created this image.

    I know many good honest dadsbwho don’t support their kids, purely because they can’t, have been bled dry emotionally and financially by a failing family system that compounds the already difficult job of trying to parent post-separation.

    • onlydads says:

      Hi David

      ensuring “parents are afforded the support and ability to truly care for their own kids” is well put. It goes to the heart of what Cameron should have been saying yesterday!

  6. Will says:

    “Stigmatised” pretty much describes how it is for an absent father anyway. I can’t remember a birthday party or other family gathering that didn’t have the feeling of isolation about it. People don’t know what to say or would prefer not to vent their feelings in public, so people say nothing. In the begining your breakup was the topic of conversation that halted when you walked in the room. It is clear that The Prime Minister really didn’t talk to anyone about his little article before publishing it.

    To assume that a family breakup is a casual, one-sided, uncomplicated, selfish act shows arrogance in the extreme.

    • onlydads says:

      I have to agree Will. I read the whole article a number of times. He clearly had a loving Dad and I have no doubt that he cares and loves for his children too. No doubts at all about any of that!

      BUT…it did come over as arrogance, and we don’t need or want that from our PM.

      Bob

  7. David says:

    As a father who has been through the UK Family Courts and spent more money there just fighting to see my child, than most would spend on raising a child in their lifetime, it makes me very angry that Fathers Day was chosen by Cameron to say such negative things about fathers. He wouldn’t dare criticise mothers on Mothers Day.

    I won Residence of my child, after being denied contact after separation/divorce. I am in the rare minority. So many dads don’t win anything, and fight a losing battle just to try and be the dad they know their children deserve. Feckless dads are bad, but until you can clearly identify the difference between a feckless father and a dad unable to see his kids, you can’t start stigmatising them.

    Should we treat all mothers who deny fathers and children a loving relationship like drunk drivers? How can we know one of these bad single mothers from the good ones making the best of a compromised parenting situation? We can’t. Secret family courts certainly won’t expose the bad ones. Fathers climbing on rooftops aren’t aloud to name and shame the bad ones. So there is no way to stigmatise bad mothers, just as there is no way to do the same with bad fathers.

    Rather than try the impossible, lets focus on what is possible. Stop allowing bad parents to abuse their position of power and control, or lack there of. Make parents fully responsible for their actions, and place safety net laws that respect the rights of children, and their parents protection from abuse and neglect.

    A mother and child being abandoned by a feckless father is serious neglect. A father locked out of a child’s life is abuse. Both forms of action should be punishable, and remedies to avoid such situations should be the primary focus, with punishment acting as a strong deterrent in the first place.

    We don’t stigmatise drink drivers, we deter them with effective policing and campaigns of awareness, and robust laws to catch any that fail to comply. Lets treat abusive mothers, and feckless fathers with a similar process of education, awareness and effective laws.

    • onlydads says:

      David. Thank you for spelling out your views so clearly.

      I don’t think anyone could do anything other than agree with all you say.

      Best.

      Bob

  8. Nick Hodge says:

    I want more contact with my estranged child, not less. I feel there are more women restricting access to dads than there are feckless dads who don’t care about their kids. Any misdemeanor on my part, no matter how minor, and the stick comes out cleverly. She’s sick, she’s tired, she doesn’t want to see you etc..

  9. Lil Maliq says:

    Initially I got incensed by David Camerons ‘Fathers Day message, then I saw it rightly as profound ignorance on his part. I vote Tory, believe in many of the ideas Dave has but I was disappointed in his rhetoric. He does not have the faintest idea what us dads who do not live with our children have to go through. How disempowered we are or how we get discriminated against on the basis of our sex by the legal and judicial system and many other systems in place that give superiority and preference to mothers.

    He may as well have been pandering to the voters from the mums.net clique in his bid to appear to be a sympathiser of womens angst. He had a perfect opportunity to call for equality in how parental roles and responsibilities need to be percieved and addressed, instead of showing his ineptitude at grasping an issue that is so emotive to many men.

    I have 3 sons and even though I do not live with them have fought for them and been made to understand through the system that being a male parent I am seen as a lesser being in comparison to the female parent. All that, despite the fact that i’m active in both my older sons schools, being chair of governors in 1 of their schools and a volunteer chess coach in the other.

    As I state in my blog, if equality has moved so far that we can have female head of states, prime ministers and head of monarchies, we should be able to have the same equality in parenting. Yes, absent fathers do the children a huge disservice, but what about the many dads that have been broken emotionally and psychologically as well as the children affected due to the decisions made by women.

    If only Davy Boy really understood…..

    • onlydads says:

      what a marvelous comment. Thank you. I hope what you say is widely read. You are right of course. Cameron could have used yesterday to make a really important comment on the positive role of mums AND Dads play.

      Bob

  10. Peter says:

    I am from Holland but I want to say something because this thing happens everywhere. I read a lot of things that also happened to me. On a Sunday 2 sept 5 years ago I had my son and daughter with me for the weekend and that was the last time I saw them. Since then I never spoke to them, never had a sign of life of them, not even a birthdaycard. I never had a good reason for this and I have been to a lawyer but my resources were dried! In 8 years I have spent for over € 26000,- on several lawyers and cases and I won everytime but my ex is playing the game very well. Before 2006, sometimes when I went to pick up my kids, they did not show up. How many times I had to hear that they had a birthdayparty from family or that their grandma wants to do something in the weekend. When I bought something for my kids, the family threw it away and the kids were ashamed to tell me. But in Court she said once that I never bought something for the kids. But that is the strategy: Ask for the money and the mother buys so it is written in the childrens mind that the mother always buys things and not the father.
    Last 5 years I have paid for child support and the last months I am thinking for what? The mother obviously doesn’t want me as a father in the children their life, I know nothing about their school, health, etc etc.
    So I better give my money to a foster kid where I have some influence in their future!
    What I find very sad is that my 2 other kids in a new relation were getting used to their brother and sister and still after 5 years they ask me when they come again. It makes me cry.
    So even if David Cameron is not my Prime Minister, it hurted me when he said this about fathers who abandoned their kids. He definitively did not do his homework right and he offended fathers who are victims of mothers with a big problem. These kind of mothers think they love their kids but it isn’t love it is about possesion and jealousy.
    I am ashamed to say that but I am so afraid that I will lose my feelings for my 2 kids after 5 years. But I have to go on for my new family and God knows that I am a good father to them

    • onlydads says:

      Peter. Thank you so much for your comments.

      Every reader of this blog will be offering you all the goodwill possible and hoping – really hoping that you get to see your kids again.

      Bob

  11. Ben Fisher says:

    After reading the comments on here I am both shocked, and oddly comforted, by the number of people in near enough the same position. the position of being forcibly withdrawn from their childrens lives with the state seemingly engineering a situation much worse than common sense would dictate it should be.
    To that end I have set up a Facebook group to gather like minded and concerned individuals. The end aim of this is to facilitate a protest to raise awareness of the issues in question and hopefully force the governments hand in changing our draconian system.
    There are at least 500 people on here I have read expressing concern, I’m sure you all know at least two other people in the same situation so get joining and hopefully we can change this disgusting state of affairs…

    https://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_196135437101044&ap=1

    • onlydads says:

      thanks for the comments Ben – and for the link too. i am sure many readers will have a look at what you are doing on Facebook.

      Best

      Bob

  12. I didn’t realise The Thick Of It was a documentary! Cameron’s comments would be laughable if they weren’t so damaging. They’re straight from the Spin Doctor’s book of ‘What’s On The Agenda, Boys? Any Initiatives We Can Come Up With Today That will Grab the Headlines?’ And then they’ll be onto the next Big Idea.
    What’s the best way to deal with idiot’s? Ignore them.
    Don’t rise to this. It’s nonsense, and like most of the Government’s so-called initiatives, will never happen.

    • onlydads says:

      That may not be far off the truth. I have been asked many times today what I thought Cameron was doing with this speech…maybe no more thangrabbing headlines!

      Sad.

      Thanks for commenting

      Bob

  13. KatieB says:

    When will he realise that stereotyping a huge part of our society is not helpful at all in building a better community? (I’m pretty sure that’s a word he used in his policies…not that I took much notice of him!) a very large number of ‘absent’ fathers aren’t absent because they want to be, often they lose out because the mother has been the main carer of the children throughout their relationship and a lot are very good at playing the game and getting what they want rather than what is best for the children, which is largely very difficult to prove.
    I’ve acted for plenty of fathers who would have given anything to have more contact with their children, even if it was just an extra phone call a week.
    My sympathies to all those fathers who are in this position or worse and to Mr Cameron, please think before you speak next time, maybe ask one of those advisors of yours for some advice, god knows I’m sure we tax payers pay enough for it!!

    • onlydads says:

      Katie. As you will have seen from the various comments and replies on here, Cameron has upset a lot of people – both dads and mums.

      I am not sure what he was thinking. Today, I think that @reluctanthousedad probably got it right…let’s just have the headlines for the day!

      Thank you for your constructive input – Bob 🙂

  14. Sara says:

    As a mom of four children i found David Camerons comments completely out of line. He lumped all absent fathers in the same stereotypical role of villain. Yet as your comments are showing this is far from the truth. I have seen mothers use their children as pawns to punish their partners for leaving them. I’ve seen mothers lie openly about neglect on the fathers behalf. I’ve also seen bad mothers who shouldn’t be raising there children.

    Yes I have also met men who have fathered a child and has taken no emotional or physical responsibility for them.

    The fact that DC made these comments on fathers day made me angry. My heart bled for all those fathers who were already in pain missing their children on this day.

    I believe in equal respect for both sexes. As parents it’s not our sex that counts but the love we have for our child.

    • onlydads says:

      Sara,

      Thank you for your comments. you are quite right of course – there is evidence of women (and some men) using their children as pawns as if in a horrible chess game.

      How I wish Cameron had have used his Father’s Day message to praise the work and input of fathers – rather than this very negative viewpoint.

      Bob

  15. Really interesting post, thank you for taking the time to write this. The comments certainly reflect what I think most decent people feel. It is clear that Mr Cameron was way off the mark with this and I think releasing this on Father’s Day was a cheap shot – so much for Mr Cameron’s Big Society – it seems that all this talk of inclusion only relates to some but not all.

    Jacqueline

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you for commenting.

      You are right of course. DC was way off mark with his comments. I was speaking with the BBC yesterday (get me) and they confirmed that the whole article went down like a lead balloon!

      Bob

  16. Howard says:

    Dear Mr Cameron
    My child’s mother told me her abuser had boasted he had bought the Judge. But so offensive had the Directions Hearing been, that unknown to her I was already trying to get a review.

    I had not known this, once amazing, woman a week when with hope in my heart I asked may I be a father to her child. At the time, we both thought it was her abuser’s child. But her fear, the disgust she had stated and enacted and then the confusion and revulsion she had shown when we partly discovered how he had sexually abused her, left me feeling confident she had escaped him. Little did I understand the physical addiction he had created in her and the damage he had implanted in her mind.

    Following a car accident, caused I found out by her car’s rear brake adjusters being fully released, she had been inconsolable. The new regular long telephone calls that followed left her shouting absurd lies at me for two hours, eating nothing of value and suppressing her hunger with mint chocolate. I worked hard, but successive phone calls even stopped her taking the few supplements I had managed to get her to take during these early stages of pregnancy. Seeing her abuser left her worse.

    The CSA used an address that was not mine to ‘illegally’ gain a Liability Order. It took three years for me to gain a DNA test to discover, with surprise and great concern, I was her child’s father. It took something like three weeks, via the internet to discover the applicant I’d met in the Directions Hearing last year who on impulse, violently threatened me in the hearing and later used his greater strength to damage my hand, was the same abuser that had split her from me while she was pregnant. An man unrelated to my child who, as the very best advice recommends, she had escaped and moved miles from for a second time some three years before his court application.

    Cafcass’s involvement I doubt needs any introduction, other than to say it was no less offensive than the Court’s.

    I provided this East Midlands court with a submission as recommended and read by two family law solicitors. In part it draws attention the applicant lying to the police, physically attacking my child’s mother, the above and my child’s coping mechanism of dissociation, being easily triggered. A mechanism that shows independently, from what I have personally witnessed, my child has been abused from an age of less than 4 years old by this man.

    District Judge Chris Cooper’s written Order states my submission has ‘no connection’ with his providing the applicant with contact with my child, NB: No connection with my child’s right to live free of abuse!

    During this court action, due to the unsupervised contact it provided the abuser from the start. For a second time, I witnessed, a highly presentable woman, my child’s mother, again have her ability to reason and act independently of this evil man’s whims and compulsions totally removed. To cause the removal of my child’s contact with me and my approaches to supply funds and a computer, responded to with threats of her going to court to stop such ‘vile’ suggestions, etc.

    Mr Cameron, if you have any love of children, remove this blight the repeatedly fined UK Family Court system shelters. I’ve learnt my child will ‘never’ meet the woman I once admired due to the damage their abuser has caused and please note she stood a far better chance to resist this abuser’s skills far more than my child does. Research in America and here confirms the reality such men can create in a person’s head and the route to physical addiction he used, unbeknown to her, on her, is well established. I have seen how this abuser causing offence to someone’s very being makes them secretive and have experienced this court use such tactics.

    Last year, the Government Minister’s department responsible for reviews, forwarded my paperwork to the Dept of Transport.

    Notes: Bob, I’m happy to supply copies of paperwork.

    Howard

    • onlydads says:

      Howard. My goodness. Thank you for adding your comments. In many ways the Dear Mr Cameron…speaks for itself.

      This post is still be read by many – and that has to be a good thing!

      Wishing you all the very best…

      Bob

  17. Anna Ellis says:

    Like most people (including a lot of mumsnet members) I was horrified and dismayed by Cameron’s comments.

    I spent years repeatedly going back to court after I finally left my abusive partner; as he had never been abusive towards our children, he was granted what the courts believed to be a fair amount of contact at their very young ages (3 out of 4 weekends + half all holidays). The courts could do nothing about his refusal to pay any contribution about their upkeep, he kept himself unemployed for 16 years to avoid the CSA. My children had to hear me described in derogatory terms until their contact orders ceased. He refused to accept any variation in their weekend contact, which led to their decision, in turn, to reduce contact after they were 18 to once or twice a year.

    My second partner, on leaving me for a much younger woman (only a few years older than my own daughter), refused to discuss contact for any child other than his eldest son, leaving his step-children and our youngest son distraught. Again, no maintenance ever got paid and the CSA were useless. We agreed contact of half of all school holidays and half of all weekends – he chose not to see them. All sorts of excuses were put forward, to the distress of my children.

    A lot of mothers want the fathers to have a more active role – I wish mine had dads like the ones posting on here. And yes, I’m aware of the other side of the story. I had a good friend driven almost to a nervous breakdown by his wife’s refusal to let him spend more than two hours every month with his children. I’ve known fathers travel 200 miles each way to meet up with their little ones in a contact centre. My opinion of those mothers is probably the same as most dads’…

    I saw Cameron’s behavior at the General Election count in 2010 (long story) and his increasingly arrogant and idiotic out-of-touch pronouncements match his election night persona perfectly. I think we’re seeing the real man here; I don’t think he’s going to change. I think the work that onlydads is doing is amazing – it’s a pity our politicians seem increasingly removed from the real world.

    @Howard, as the survivor of a nasty relationship myself, my heart goes out to you and your troubled life. Being in an abusive relationship is a lot like being brainwashed and some women never recover.

    • onlydads says:

      Anna. Well done for posting your reply on here. It must have taken some courage.

      I am still confused as to how a bright man like Cameron can be so off the mark with his comments. I am the first to say that not all men are angels, but there are lots and lots who want nothing more than to stayin the lives of their children.

      Your comments are thoughtful and add much to this post. Thank you. And thank you also for kind words about OnlyDads. That means a lot.

      Bob x

  18. As a concerned mother whose own child is going through the pain of being separated from his 4 month old son. The law needs to be changed to help those good fathers gain reasonable access to their child. The prime minister is bringing out a law which will treat bad fathers the same as drunk drivers I do agree with this but he also needs to help change the law regarding good fathers who want the responsibility of bringing up there child without the constant battles with the mother. Why should a father have to go through the courts just to be given the correct access to their child. The mother has all rights regarding visitation this is wrong very wrong. My son has to constantly walk on eggshells just to keep on seeing his own son. Dose she not realize that she is depriving his child of his father. I really do understand that there are bad fathers out there just as there are good father but there are also bad mothers out there too. I feel so frustrated that someone could possibly think that she has the right to dictate to my son mothers need to also wake up and take responsibility. They need to realize the child’s wants and needs should always come first. All these fathers want is equal rights and justice don:t good fathers deserve the right to care for their child

    I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.
    quote by Sigmund Freud

    cheryl johnson

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