‘There has never been a greater need for alternative male role models.’
This statement was made during last Thursday’s ‘Tonight’ programme, ‘Kids without Dads’ which explored claims made in a report by the Centre for Social Justice (the think tank established by Iain Duncan Smith) that an increasing number of children in the UK are growing up without contact with their fathers.
The programme introduced us to single mothers, including Laura and her son Josh who both said Josh would benefit from having a positive male role model in his life. It also featured William McGranaghan, founder of South London charity Dads House, and criminologist Dr Martin Glynn who discussed the role of fathers in a child’s life and the impact that father absenteeism can have on a child.
‘Kids without Dads’ concluded by highlighting the need for more male role models, discussing the current low numbers of male primary school teachers, but also pointing out that male role models exist outside of school – that they can be part of everyday life.
The topic of absent fathers is a complex one. Here at Friendship Works, we know that every family affected by this issue has its own story to tell, and every child responds differently to growing up without a father. Even a cursory glance at the responses on Twitter to the ‘Kids without Dads’ programme shows that this is an emotive subject for many people.
Friendship Works knows that all children need one to one attention from stable, supportive adults in order to thrive. The children we support face long-term challenges, so we aim to give them long-term support by asking our volunteer mentors to commit to at least two years. We also know that communities need both men and women to be giving this kind of support. Mothers referring their children to us often tell us that their child needs a positive male role model. This need is also expressed by the children themselves – a lot of the boys on our waiting list have specifically asked for a male mentor.
The gender split of volunteers applying to become mentors with Friendship Works is currently around 30% men to 70% women. There are many possible reasons for this gender imbalance – we have discussed some of them in this blog previously, but there is no doubt that there are many men in London who would make great mentors but either don’t realise that they have the right skills, don’t know that there is a need for them, or don’t know where to use the skills they have.
This month we want to get the message out loud and clear we need men to become mentors. All of our prospective volunteers are invited along to one of our orientation events, where they can find out more about what our mentors do without any obligations or expectation that they will continue with the process if it’s not right for them.
So if you know a man who is a great role model, please pass on this message to them: Friendship Works need you to give your time and skills to help children in London build brighter childhoods.