Meeting date: Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Meeting of the Parliament 23 November 2016
Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Rail Services, Social Security, Business Motion, Decision Time, Year of the Dad
Year of the Dad
The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-01243, in the name of Bob Doris, on year of the dad. I wonder what that is about. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament welcomes the projects being developed by Home-Start in the Maryhill and Springburn constituency and in Glasgow, as well as in Dundee, Fife and Argyll and Bute, which will leave a lasting legacy for the first ever Year of the Dad in 2016, a celebration of fathers and the importance of fathers in child development and parenting; considers that Home-Start is well placed to make a great success of such projects given its track record in helping families with young children; acknowledges its work to develop a greater focus on supporting dads through volunteer and group support; welcomes funding from the Scottish Government’s Children and Young People’s Integration Fund for Home-Start to lead the development of more work with dads across its network in Scotland; further welcomes other funding opportunities to develop Year of the Dad activities, including the STV Appeal and the Cattanach Trust; recognises the importance of such projects in supporting dads across Scotland, and believes that such work should continue to be developed to ensure that fathers are included whenever possible in the design and delivery of children and families’ support work beyond 2016, which will benefit not just dads but children, mothers and wider society.17:36
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer, for your kind introduction.
I am pleased to welcome to Parliament this afternoon volunteers, staff and families from Home-Start Glasgow North, as well as representatives of Home-Start projects across Scotland and beyond. I have had the privilege of working with Home-Start Glasgow North for a number of years now; this year it celebrates its 15th birthday, and I know very well the benefits that it provides to vulnerable families across my Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn constituency.
It is fair to say that Home-Start volunteers and the families supported tend to be predominantly made up of women—wonderful, strong, resilient and inspirational women. However, I was led to ask the question: what about dad? Aware that 2016 was the year of the dad, I was particularly keen to find out more about the subject.
I have been influenced by two personal events this year. In January, my wife Janet gave birth to our first child, Cameron, and on 5 May, the day of our Scottish Parliament elections, my dad passed away from terminal cancer. I am still working through how both events have changed me. Becoming a dad has certainly been a life-affirming joy, while losing my own dad has produced—and still produces—a flurry of emotions that I grapple with.
Of course, these two events will be very common and familiar to many men both in this chamber and across Scotland. Becoming a father can be as scary as it can be wonderful, but many of us are lucky to have strong support networks made up of family and friends and work colleagues and a range of social and community networks that we plug into to gain peer support and advice. What if those networks are weak or change? Who offers support to dads who feel isolated? Of course, the year of the dad is a celebration of fatherhood. I commend Fathers Network Scotland for its significant contribution to the year, and I hope to work with it in future.
However, the fact that it is the year of the dad made me interested in finding out what kind of support or services exist in communities for dads who find themselves in the sort of challenging circumstances that I have outlined. How do we engage with dads who might need assistance and offer support in a respectful, meaningful and relevant way that is of benefit to the most important thing of all—their children? How do we celebrate fatherhood in more challenging circumstances and ensure that dads build strong lifelong relationships with their children, particularly in the very important early years? There are various organisations out there, most notably Dads Rock, which many of us will have heard of, but I wanted to know what the organisation that I knew best—Home-Start Glasgow North—thought about my questions with regard to how the dads in my constituency who find themselves in challenging situations might benefit.
I met Nikki O’Hara, who runs Home-Start Glasgow North along with a number of her colleagues, and was pleased to find out that Home-Start is already actively looking at working with dads across Scotland, and not just in north Glasgow. My motion notes that projects are being developed in south Glasgow, Dundee, Fife, and Argyll and Bute. We should put on the record our thanks to all the volunteers and staff members who are making a success of those projects.
My constituency is Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn, of course. I am delighted that Nikki O’Hara and the Home-Start Glasgow North team are now set to launch a dads group locally. Iain MacDonald, who has joined the Home-Start team, and Mary McConnell, who is a group worker, are developing a new dads group to focus on supporting dads with children who are under four. Although Home-Start will provide information and training sessions to dads, the group will do what Home-Start Glasgow North and the Home-Start network do best: it will work with dads, have fun, build trust and relationships, and provide practical activities. In doing so, the aim is to strengthen father-child relationships, reduce isolation and build support networks for dads. Home-Start will help dads to become more confident and resilient, and aid children’s social and emotional development. The group will run in Maryhill on a weekly basis. It hopes that it will run for three eight-week blocks over a three-year period.
I thank the STV appeal and the Cattanach Trust for their financial commitment to the dads project, and Home-Start UK for helping to fund the initial scoping exercise. The project has set clear outcomes that can be measured. Those are not just for dads; they are for children to make progress with their social and emotional development through participation in age-appropriate activities with their dads. It is important that we evaluate those programmes. A strong evidence base and demonstrable success are important. I believe that that will be achieved and that those projects across Scotland can play an important role in the health and wellbeing of dads and their children in the years ahead.
That presents both a challenge and an opportunity to local authorities, our national health service, health and social care partnerships, and the Scottish Government to consider how to ensure the long-term, sustainable funding of such projects. I am sure that Home-Start Glasgow North and the wider network would welcome an on-going dialogue with the Scottish Government and partners to identify sustainable funding opportunities in the years ahead, and I hope that the minister can commit today to opening up that dialogue.
Today is about a celebration of fatherhood with the year of the dad. Every day, the vast majority of dads do a great and wonderful job. A recent Fathers Network Scotland survey found that 59 per cent of dads read to their children every day or most days, and that 82 per cent of dads cook for their kids at least a few times a week. That is pretty good, but there is definitely room for improvement there for dads—and I include myself in that.
My favourite time every day is around 5.30 am. That is when dad’s time with Cameron begins, and he has his first feed, smile, play and nappy change of the day. That is our time together. However, I have to say that Cameron did not get the memo this morning. That time was around quarter past 4. I am feeling slightly tired.
Let us be proud of the role that dads play each and every day in building loving relationships with their children that last a lifetime. Being a dad is new to me, but it is not new to many in the chamber and many who are watching across Scotland.
Let us also acknowledge that, just like mums, sometimes dads need a helping hand and additional support. Home-Start does that very well. It is a privilege to have highlighted its excellent work and the part that it is playing to develop a lasting legacy for the 2016 year of the dad.
I very much hope that everyone will be able to join me at a parliamentary event that I will host after the debate, at which we will find out much more about the work of Home-Start UK and how it is answering the question that I started with: what about dad?
I call Fulton MacGregor and say to him that the bar has been set high on feeding and nappy changing.17:44
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. It gives me great pleasure to speak in the debate, and I thank Bob Doris for lodging the motion for members’ business and giving us the opportunity to discuss it here.
When I first noticed the debate in the Business Bulletin, I thought that I just had to speak in it. That was because, as many of my colleagues know, earlier this week I was able to share with them the news that my partner and I are expecting, in May next year, our second child. [Applause.] Thank you very much.
In mentioning that, I would also like to mention my wee boy, Ceard, who is now two years old and, it is fair to say, is my whole world. He was born on 2 March 2014 and changed my life completely. I cannot really remember what life was like before that—people used to say that to me and I thought that it could not be true. Most parents will recognise that.
In everything that I do in politics—the decisions that I make and the things that I think about—I have his future in mind. Without straying too much into a political element during a members’ business debate, I remember clearly the night of the independence referendum in 2014, when Ceard was only about six months old. I returned from the count knowing that my side, yes, had lost. I broke down in tears when I faced coming back to him and not being able to give him a normal independent country to grow up in. That was the way I saw it; I know that other parties have different views.
I return to the present. I have now talked about my son here in the chamber. I am proud of that and I will be able to show the Official Report to him and his younger brother or sister when they are older—probably much to their embarrassment. I am sure that the parliamentary authorities will have calls from them, wondering how the archives can be deleted.
It is important to remember those who, for a multitude of reasons, have not been able to become dads or who have been dads but, sadly, have had that taken from them—again, under many different circumstances. Of course, we should remember all the mothers and children affected by those situations too. We should take any opportunity that arises to note such situations and the bravery that is shown by the people involved.
Yesterday’s debate in the chamber was on adoption and permanency, and let us give some thought to the adoptive and foster dads across Scotland who are so selfless and contribute so much to our society. That was a fantastic debate, across the chamber and all the parties and members who contributed.
I am pleased to hear about the initiatives in Glasgow that Bob Doris mentioned. As a member of the Justice Committee, I want to mention some current initiatives that promote the role of dads in their children’s development—for example, Barnardo’s, working in Polmont. A couple of months ago, I attended a reception at which we were shown a video of some of the staff in Polmont and from Barnardo’s, working with young men there who were reading their children, “The Gruffalo”. The Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald, spoke at that event. It was fantastic to see the effect that being able to interact with their children had on those young men’s lives.
Families Outside, which I met this week and had the pleasure of speaking to at its steering group, is doing invaluable work promoting contact between children and parents in custody—and we have to say that that is mainly young men.
In my constituency, I have been contacted about a group called MacFun—the “Mac” stands for men and children—which encourages dads who do not live with their children to become more involved in a fun environment.
I can see that my time is nearly up—
It is up. Thank you very much.
Okay, sorry. Thank you.17:48
For many reasons—not least because I am the father of three young children—I am more than happy to support Bob Doris’s motion today and the year of the dad campaign in general. Recently, my six-year-old son had to fill in a school questionnaire about his dad’s appearance. In the section where he was meant to enter the colour of my hair, he wrote, “He has no hair.”
Debates such as this rightly prompt those of us with children to reflect on how we act as parents, but they also allow us all to consider our own childhood and how we were supported by our fathers and/or our mothers. I have been incredibly fortunate to have been given endless support and encouragement by my parents to this day, and I hope in some small way to pass on that experience to my children.
I was lucky—very lucky—but there are many who have not been. Across Scotland today there are families with young children that are struggling with a range of issues such as isolation, post-natal depression, physical health problems, bereavement and many others. Those are families with young children who need help and support. We can do many things to support those families, and the fathers, mothers, carers and even grandparents within them.
For that reason, I am delighted that Bob Doris highlighted the work of Home-Start in his motion, not least because, as the motion states, Home-Start operates in Argyll and Bute, in my region of the Highlands and Islands. As the motion notes, Home-Start has a great track record in helping parents; in particular, it has done a lot of work in developing a greater focus on supporting fathers when stress is placed on them. I applaud the crucial work of Home-Start in helping families through the use of a combination of volunteers and groups, which in turn assists the development of our young people at a critical stage in their lives, and goes some way to tackling many of the problems that I mentioned a moment ago.
Indeed, that kind of campaign is very important. As Fathers Network Scotland highlights, it is very much the case that the tired old stereotypes of fathers being breadwinners and mothers being caregivers are long outdated and out of step with modern life. More women are in work than ever before and more men are dedicating time to parenting. Fathers Network Scotland notes that fathers gave a mere 15 minutes of parenting time on average in the 1970s, yet now dedicate more than three hours a day, with extra time on weekends. In fact, more dads stay at home than ever before, with 6 per cent of married households having a working mother and a stay-at-home father. The figure was less than 2 per cent in the 1970s, so the trend is small but growing.
Although there is a disproportionately large number of single-parent households in which a woman is the primary parent, 10 per cent of single-parent households across the UK have a male primary parent. There is very little or no focus on that group, but we ignore it at our peril so I am pleased that there has been wide cross-party support for the motion. When men’s issues come up in politics, they tend to be seen by some as being of lesser importance than other issues. International men’s day, which was held only a few days ago, regularly receives unjustifiable scorn from some commentators.
I commend Bob Doris for championing this cause and I am happy to attach my name, and the support of members on the Conservative benches, to his motion. This is the first-ever year of the dad and I am certain that it will go from strength to strength. I am glad that the Parliament is recognising it. Regretfully, I cannot attend the reception tonight—not because of a competing parliamentary or social event, but because it is my children’s bath time.
Well, we cannot criticise you for that.17:53
I thank Bob Doris for securing tonight’s debate, which gives me the opportunity to bring a message of solidarity to the year of the dad from Scotland’s grandpas section.
It also gives me an opportunity to say a few words about a charity that I value highly, which is Home-Start. We do not get the opportunity all that often to sing Home-Start’s praises. It is not the type of charity that pursues a big national profile and it does not bother us here as often as some charities do. Yet I venture to suggest that pretty much every member of this Parliament will be aware of its work in their constituency, because what it does is so valuable and practical. It spends its time on that work rather than promoting itself.
Its work goes to the heart of families’ needs. It supports and befriends families that are under stress, and its great strength is that it is prepared to do anything that a family needs, in order to support it. It is not about what Home-Start thinks would be good for a family; it is much more about what that family needs.
Not surprisingly, the Home-Start that I know best is Home-Start East Lothian, which is led by Mary MacLeod in the chair and Katy Pollock, who is the senior co-ordinator. They organise around 40 volunteers, which allows them to support 75 families, and to provide support and to reach out to around 169 children. Home-Start has been doing that very valuable work in East Lothian since 2000. Being so embedded in the heart of family life is probably why the organisation understands the importance of fathers and why it understood the importance of the first year of the dad, picked up the idea and ran with it.
There is plenty of research that backs up the importance of fathers. For example, there is a strong correlation between children not seeing their fathers and childhood depression. More positively, there is a whole list of benefits that come from having a confident, hands-on dad as part of a family, which include children having a higher IQ, fewer behavioural problems and a lot less stress, and them being much happier. That is proven by research, but also by the practical experience of the volunteers and staff of Home-Start.
I have already said that Home-Start is very practical and it does not surprise me that its involvement in year of the dad has led to the creation of projects, which—as Bob Doris’s motion says—will be the legacy of the first year of the dad, at least in some parts of Scotland. I hope that Home-Start in East Lothian is listening and considering whether to do that, too.
In passing, I should mention another charity—Dads Work—that does tremendous work with dads in my constituency.
One of the themes of the year of the dad is: what did your dad teach you? I thought about that prior to speaking this evening, although I thought more about what my dad did not teach me. My dad was a car mechanic to trade and he could take any vehicle—car, bus, lorry; in his time, he did all of them—to pieces, put it back together again and make it work. He could also rewire and replumb a house. He could use wood to make anything that you could think of, he was a pretty good gardener and I even remember him building a garage.
He taught me none of that. He was determined that I would earn my living with my head, rather than with my hands. He left me as a highly qualified, but completely cack-handed young man. However, he taught me that you never let your family down and that you always get engaged in your community—as he was, whether that was through his church, through the Boys Brigade or through his trade union at work. He taught me that you put your family first, you put your community second and you put yourself third. That was the lesson that my dad taught me and that, in my own curious way, I have tried to live by.
That was lovely. I enjoyed that.17:58
It gives me great pleasure to speak in this debate on the year of the dad. The debate was secured by my colleague Bob Doris, a relatively new dad. I had good notice of Mr Doris’s intention to hold this members’ debate as we chatted about it before the summer recess. I challenged him—perhaps he has forgotten this—to conduct the debate with his then brand new son, Cameron, attached to him in a sling. Mr Doris has secured the debate slightly later than I anticipated when I threw down the gauntlet, so he is off the hook now that Cameron is probably past his more portable and docile stage. However, I also love the idea of a wee one having a wee crawl about the chamber.
Modern fatherhood to me means shared parenting and dads playing a full role in their children’s lives. I am married to a modern dad—John—whose hands-on parenting and shared role in the care of our children has enabled me to do the work that I do. If it were not for the interchangeable roles of mum and dad in my house, I would not be able to spend four nights and three days a week away from home as I do in this job. I certainly would not have been able to spend a week away on a job on an offshore installation, as I used to do—far too many times to count—when I ran my business.
Things have certainly moved on since our grandparents and even since our parents were in the baby business and, these days, there are provisions in place for men to take a more nurturing and active role in a child’s daily life. Dad is no longer just someone who a child sees coming through the door, tired at the end of the day as the kids are being put to bed.
Mr Gray has made me think about what my dad taught me. I want to put on record an apology to my dad. He tried his very best to teach me the bagpipes, but I was a nightmare student.
There is a long way to go until things even out, but that is not because of any reluctance on the part of dads, new and old, to play a fuller role in their children’s upbringing. Last week, I led a members’ business debate on flexible working, during which we heard testimony from some of our speakers that dads often felt that they were unable to ask for family-friendly hours or flexible working, that they faced a great deal of expectation that they should have a more traditional role than their female counterparts and, in some cases, that they faced derision for asking for flexibility in the first place. One member told of a chap who left a law practice to go elsewhere as his practice would not be flexible enough to accommodate his taking his daughter to school—a great business decision there.
It seems that, in some cases, the wishes and needs of dads are secondary to those of mums when it comes to issues around the workplace. The low take-up of shared parental leave is perhaps an indication not of the lack of willingness of dads to take it, but of a concern about the negative attitudes of employers and fellow employees if they were to exercise that right.
Of course there are other reasons for the low take-up, and it is proven that pay rates are a huge issue. The gender pay gap extends its reach even further, it seems, and affects the full role that dads are entitled to take when their baby is just new in the world. It makes economic sense that the highest earner will be the one who goes back to work and, if that is overwhelmingly the dad, then dads will miss out on that opportunity to take leave in that formative and wonderful time of bonding with their child. Actually, I have to say that I would jealously guard my maternity leave, but that is a side issue.
That is a new part of the debate and is yet another reason to see the gender pay gap eradicated, because equality works both ways. Dads need the same rights as mums to play a full role in their children’s lives and we must look at bringing down the societal and economic barriers to that.
The people of this generation are the pioneers of shared parenting. C’mon the modern dads! Lead the way for future generations, for whom parental roles will be interchangeable—as far as biology will allow.18:02
I thank Bob Doris for securing the debate.
As a son and now a proud dad—of Hugh and Vicky—I welcome the opportunity to celebrate and recognise the role of dads and to reflect on their importance in a child’s development.
Like many men, I do not get—or, perhaps more accurately, do not take—the opportunity to tell my dad how I feel about him. My dad recently celebrated his 90th birthday. He was born in 1926 and still lives on the same farm in Galloway. My dad has always been a hardworking man, farming during a time that witnessed an agricultural revolution, with farms changing from using horses to using tractors and from having byres to having automatic milking parlours.
I came along in 1967, when my dad was still working six-and-a-half days a week, with one week off once a year, after the tattie holidays. I used to see him briefly in the morning before school, and then in the evening, when I would watch him fall asleep in his armchair, tired after a day of physical labour that started at 5.30 in the morning and finished at 6.30 at night.
Sometimes, making a living and making a life point in different directions, but my dad always made a living with his family at the heart of it. Many nights we would play chess. Between moves, he would tell me off for watching the television and not concentrating, and then I would tell him off for falling asleep and snoring.
My sister and I loved when my mother was out and we would bully my dad into getting the old reel-to-reel tape recorder out to record us reading school plays or him singing some Andy Stewart or Will Fyffe song.
On a Sunday afternoon once a fortnight, we would draw lots to decide where we would go on my dad’s half-day off. We might go to Stranraer to see the ferries or Prestwick to see the aeroplanes, or perhaps we would do what mum and dad wanted to do and go to the Sunday barras in Dumfries or to Logan gardens. Unsurprisingly, it was always the ferries or the planes, because my sister and I would never put our mum and dad’s choices into the draw—we thought that they did not know, but I am sure that they did.
It was only a few years ago that I was able to really understand half of the father/son relationship. Mark Twain once said:
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” [Interruption.]
I am sorry, Presiding Officer; I have knocked my papers onto the floor.
That is okay. We are enjoying your story.
Oh well, that is not so bad.
As children or teenagers, we do not take time to cherish the little moments in life. It is a skill that we learn as we get older, when it takes more than one sweetie to cheer us up. When I became a father 19 years ago, I found myself remembering and happily reliving all the moments that my dad and I shared. Not a day goes by that I do not think about what he has done for me.
Much of what I did with my son Hugh and daughter Vicky was similar to what my dad did with me. When I coached my son Hugh at football, I thought about all the times that my dad took me to Stranraer ice rink when I was first learning to curl. Every time I play, I still hear his encouraging words of wisdom. I know that he enjoyed coaching me, and I enjoyed coaching Hugh just as much. When my father was interviewed by John Beattie just after I took the oath for Parliament, he was asked if he was proud. He said, “Oh yes,” and added, “just like when we won the curling together.” That simple comment meant so much more to me than my father could ever know.
He taught me a lot about which I often reminisce: carving wooden boats, building everything from sheds and decking to go-karts and installing kitchens. He gave me the confidence to try those things myself but, unfortunately, did not pass on the necessary do-it-yourself skills. Even now, at 90, when the rabbit hutch needs urgent renovation, he is still there with a hammer in one hand and a bucketload of enthusiasm in the other.
Often, what we become depends on what we learn from our dads, not when they are trying to teach us but in unconscious moments when we are informed by little scraps of their wisdom. My dad seems to have never-ending patience that I am sure I tested regularly.
My father and I worked in partnership on the dairy farm for a number of years. Unlike many farming fathers, he passed over decision making to me as soon as I joined the partnership. He made sure that he was always there for advice but never interfered and let me make my own mistakes when I was determined to make them.
I spoke of the huge advances in agriculture. Those changes are echoed in the ones that have taken place in the home and workplace over the past 50 years. As stated on the year of the dad website,
“society hasn’t yet caught up with the striking cultural changes … The old stereotype of married breadwinner and disciplinarian no longer serves us in an age of increasing diversity and gender equality. It’s time to celebrate and support the key contribution fathers make to child development, family and community life.”
We need to ensure that organisations such as Home-Start have the resources to promote and enable equality at home and flexibility in work to enable a better work-life balance for dads, who overwhelmingly want more involvement in the lives of their children. The value and quality of a dad can be seen in the goals, dreams and aspirations that he sets for not only himself but his family.18:08
I pay tribute to Bob Doris for bringing the debate to Parliament and to all the members who have taken part in what has been an appropriate celebration of the role of dads in Scotland in general, in our own lives and in the lives of our children. In my interview in Holyrood magazine, I have given my own reflections on the impact that my father had on my upbringing and what I hope to achieve as a father. Those experiences will help to shape some of the work that I do in my role as a minister.
The Scottish Government is clear that supporting dads to play a full role in family life is an important part of making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up. We provide support in a number of ways, including chairing the national fathers advisory board and funding and working directly with a range of organisations.
This year, the key way in which we have demonstrated our commitment is by providing funding and direct support for the year of the dad, which is a campaign that recognises and celebrates the difference that a great dad can make, in particular to child development. Fathers Network Scotland deserves particular praise for leading the campaign, which is a notable achievement for a small charity. I thank it for its efforts and commend it for what has already been achieved. For example, nearly 100 events have been held, attended by nearly 10,000 people, and around 150 organisations have signed up to the campaign, along with around 3,000 individual supporters.
Mr Doris referred to how we would develop an evidence base on the role of fathers as a result of the work on the year of the dad. I can advise the Parliament that we are hoping to introduce a dad-specific survey as part of our growing up in Scotland study, which we hope will build on the work of the year of the dad and ensure that the role of fathers is more widely acknowledged in Government policy in future.
The year of the dad is inclusive and emphasises the widespread benefits of the involvement of dads. A strength of the campaign is the recognition that families come in all shapes and sizes. When we talk about celebrating dads, we are also talking about stepdads, adoptive dads, granddads and a whole range of other male role models. That touches on the point that Iain Gray rightly made about being a flag bearer for the granddads in the debate and about the absence of dads in some children’s lives. It is also about the positive male role models who can influence those children’s upbringing.
As Bob Doris rightly notes in the motion, the year of the dad is about benefits not just to dads but to children, mums, families and wider society. That is vital.
We can always spot the new dad when he tells you how enthusiastic he is about waking up at 5.30 in the morning. As the parent of an eight-year old and a six-year-old, I can advise Mr Doris that the novelty wears off.
I am delighted that Home-Start is supporting the year of the dad. I whole-heartedly agree that Home-Start is well placed to support dads and their families, given its strong track record in working with families with young children. Indeed, Home-Start is an organisation that I know and admire. I am particularly aware of the great work of Home-Start Aberdeen in my area, and I am continually impressed by the range of services on offer, the quality of the support that is provided and the commitment and enthusiasm of staff and volunteers. Donald Cameron rightly highlighted the importance of the work of those volunteers, and it is important that we recognise that today. The Scottish Government has shown our belief in the work of Home-Start by awarding £197,000 for 2016-17 through our new children, young people and families early intervention fund. I am delighted that that funding is enabling Home-Start to work with dads across Scotland, in particular through the projects that have been referred to in the debate. This evening, I will be at the parliamentary reception that Bob Doris is hosting, when I will be looking to speak a little bit more about that work.
The success of the year of the dad has been a collective effort. With that in mind, it is important to recognise the contribution of a range of partners. First, there are organisations that do great work directly with dads: organisations such as Dads Rock, Families Need Fathers Scotland, Midlothian Sure Start and One Parent Families Scotland. I could list many others, all working diligently to support fathers.
Secondly, there are services that are leading the way in involving and supporting dads. South Lanarkshire Council and a Fife Council and NHS Fife partnership are doing particularly fine work to ensure that services are designed and practitioners are trained to include dads.
Fulton MacGregor highlighted work that is being done in our prisons. I am aware of a number of projects that are taking place across Scotland’s prison estate, which has been recognised as leading the way in providing a link between fathers who have been incarcerated and their children to ensure that those children maintain a link and a bond with their fathers.
Thirdly, as Bob Doris noted, it is important to recognise the value of funding from other sources. In the case of Home-Start, that is the STV appeal and the Cattanach Trust. Unfortunately, the Scottish Government cannot always provide all the funding that is necessary to support the good work that is going on, so it is pleasing that there are other funders out there that are able to help organisations and projects that benefit children and families across the country. Bob Doris asked for a discussion about funding in future; I am more than happy to consider that further and to look at how best we could take something forward in that area.
Finally, we should recognise the employers that demonstrate excellent practice in supporting dads. That is hugely important, as evidence shows that work can be a major issue for many dads when it comes to family life. We know that men have traditionally struggled to secure flexible working arrangements that allow them to be as involved at home as they want to be, but employers increasingly recognise the importance of supporting dads, not least because it makes business sense. Research shows that dads aged between 25 and 35 are among the most disengaged and disaffected employees, so supporting them is important for recruitment, retention and productivity.
As part of my portfolio, I am lead minister for family-friendly and flexible working, on which I work closely with my ministerial colleague Jamie Hepburn. That is a clear signal of our recognition that working patterns and family wellbeing go hand in hand. Gillian Martin discussed that last week in her members’ business debate and again this evening. I point out to her that, as part of the year of the dad, we have produced 24 short films, most of which are about dads who have taken a flexible working package to spend more time with their family. We hope that those films will encourage other dads to take flexible working packages, and perhaps encourage employers to consider providing more flexible working packages for their employees.
Our work in the area includes running the Scottish top employers for working families awards each year in recognition of the importance of supporting dads. One of our award categories is the Fathers Network Scotland best for all stages of fatherhood award. Last year, the winning organisation was Barclays, while the Scottish Parliament was of course highly commended. We are working with employers to increase the use of shared parental leave, which allows parents flexibility in deciding how leave from work is taken in the first year following their child’s birth. As part of the year of the dad, workshops for new dads have been piloted in Police Scotland and the Scottish Government with a view to rolling them out to other organisations from next year.
In conclusion, I want to pick up on a key phrase in the motion: “a lasting legacy”. There have been a few references to legacy in today’s debate. In recent weeks, Fathers Network Scotland and the Scottish Government have been seeking feedback on the impact of the year of the dad. I am advised that, just yesterday, we received an email from someone in Australia who thanked Scotland for leading the way on this issue. The year of the dad has focused debate on the importance of dads in child development and in family and community life. We should be proud that Scotland is leading the way in supporting dads and their families. It is a fantastic start, but it is only a start. We need to maintain our collective efforts in order to deliver equality at home and at work. The valuable work of organisations such as Home-Start is vital to leaving that lasting legacy.Meeting closed at 18:16.