HOMES FOR FATHERS AND FAMILIES (“HOFF”)
Homes for Fathers and Families (“HOFF”) is a project aimed at providing the same degree of support for single fathers as is available for single mothers in the UK. Fathers who look after their children on their own have much the same difficulties as mothers. In addition they are not necessarily as naturally gifted when it comes to caring for their children, nor are they seen as needing help, for example by employers in regard to time off or flexibility in working hours. As a result, in many cases, their children suffer.
HOFF aims to tackle this problem by providing accommodation and support for fathers who are looking after their children on their own.
Official statistics for the UK show that in 2005 there were 1.9 million single parents, with 3.1 million dependent children. Two thirds of them live in rented accommodation. One in nine of these parents is a father. Families who depend on a single father tend to be smaller than average: 64% of them consist of the father and just one child, and a further 28% the father and two children. So there are about 210,000 single fathers with about 280,000 dependent children living with them. In Inner London alone there are around 19 000 single fathers who are known to various social services, But there is no official specific help for this group, in contrast to the provision made for single mothers.
The founder and promoter of HOFF is William McGranaghan. William is himself a single father. He and his son, Sam, were left by Sam’s mother, who went abroad when the child was one year old. William immediately had to learn to care for Sam. He took temporary and part time work in order to be able to spend time with Sam and to take him to school. It was not easy. Sam was discovered at the age of eleven as having learning difficulties. Despite that, with William’s love and support, Sam did well at school and now, aged 18, has gone to college to study Sports Development. William wishes to make life a bit easier for other fathers who find themselves in his predicament. He wants them to get the help he did not get.
Fathers can find themselves looking after their children for many reasons, including divorce, abandonment, bereavement or the sickness of the children’s mother. Like single mothers, single fathers find that life can be very tough. Finding somewhere to live with their children is usually the first obstacle they need to get over. Often their capacity to earn a living becomes hampered by the need to look after children on their own. They can work, but only if the hours are flexible or if they can afford childcare. Even if that is possible, an emergency or an urgent need for a child to see the doctor can play havoc with plans.
Employers appear less flexible with men in this situation than with women. Many of these difficulties can be eased if the father has a supportive family of his own, with say sisters or a mother who can help, but many fathers just do not have this support structure. They are on their own.
Objective of HOFF: The immediate objective of HOFF is to establish its first Fathers and Children temporary accommodation (A Dads House) in one of the London Boroughs. This is intended to provide the first accommodation of this type in London and hence be a test case. In order to achieve this objective HOFF is planning to co-operate with Local Boroughs and Housing Associations to find premises to be used as Dads House and also raise money from charitable funds and individuals to support the activities of the Charity.
A typical Dads House would house 10 to 15 single fathers and their children. In addition to family bedrooms, there would be a restaurant providing three meals a day for the residents as well as visitors to the centre.
There would also be a quiet area for homework and for fathers to receive advice from counsellors or specialists in finance or law or other needed skills. HOFF would also wish to provide a degree of support for fathers who are in their own homes. The hostel would therefore also have a “drop in” centre where fathers who were not resident could come for advice and a chat, and a crèche to enable such fathers to leave their children in care for a few hours.
Dads House would organise, or give fathers the opportunity to organise weekend breaks for kids, based on, for example, a network of camp sites, or knowledge of small B&B’s at good rates.
As in the case of hostels for mothers, a Dads House would be staffed by a mixture of full and part time paid staff, and volunteers.