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Entries in non-resident parents (4)

Friday
Dec152017

Christmas survival tips if you're not seeing your kids

Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year for divorced or separated parents. It is the time they most want to see their children but it may not be their turn to have them for Christmas Day. Here are some tips that attendees at our group meetings have suggested.

1 Remember to put the kids first. Even though you are missing them don’t put your distress ahead of their enjoyment. Encourage them to look forward to the next time they’re with you.

2 Try and negotiate with your former partner at least a phone call with your children on Christmas Day so they know you are thinking about them and sharing their excitement.

3 Try and agree with your former partner that it’s fair for the children to have Christmas Day with each of you on alternate years.

4 If you do have them this year don’t go overboard on arrangements. Think ahead about what they’ll enjoy rather than what’s expensive. It’s time together that counts in the long run.

5 Don’t compete on presents with your former partner. Outspending will create friction especially if money is short for both of you. When you have limited time with your children it’s often tempting to try and compensate by extravagant gestures. Don’t. Good cheer now may pay off in the New Year.

6 Keep in mind that your children will remember the time they have with you. Don’t worry that they don’t give you a second thought when they’re not with you. That’s what kids are like.

7 If you don’t have any contact with your kids at all, sit down and write them a letter. Even if you never send it it’ll be your time with them this year.

8 Don’t let yourself get miserable or lonely at home. Make sure you see friends or think about volunteering with some of the organisations that look after others at Christmas.

Friday
Dec152017

Housing benefit barrier to shared parenting

Research from the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning documents many of the issues faced by separated parents whose children live with them for less than half the time.  Parents who rely on housing benefit may only be able to take shared accommodation without bedroom space for their children to stay with them.

At present, people out of work or in low-waged jobs can claim housing benefit for up to 100 per cent of their rent. Most single people under 35 in the private rented sector are restricted to the shared accommodation rate (SAR); their housing benefit is set at a level to cover the rent on a room in a shared house. Before 2012, the SAR only applied to those aged 25 or younger. By increasing the SAR to age 35, the government increased the likelihood that non-resident parents would be included.

Key issues raised in the study included:
- Difficult behaviour of other housemates
- Children disturbing housemates
- A lack of space for children to sleep (often sharing the parent’s room)
- Substandard properties
- Landlord rules banning children from visiting properties or staying overnight

These problems have an impact upon children in these families. They are unable to have friends over when staying with their other parent. They may lack lack privacy with other unconnected adults in the accommodation. They may find their relationship with their non-resident parent damaged. The child’s resident parent is also likely to object even though the by doing so they will themselves be affected, with most or all of the overnight care falling to them.

The study suggest various changes in housing provision and benefits that would make things easier for so-called "non-resident parents" who have overnight childcare.

Although the Scottish Government moved to mitigate some of the effects of the bedroom tax many of the problems outlined in this study apply here. It is estimated that 5% of men aged 16-64 are fathers to non-resident children.

FNFS will suggest to the Scottish Government that more could be done to make shared parenting easier for people in rented accommodation or depending on housing benefit.

Sunday
May012016

Guide for schools supports inclusion of both parents

Two national charities have been working together to produce a new guide for schools and nurseries to encourage better parental inclusion in support of their children’s education.

 

Helping Children Learn, produced by Children in Scotland and Families Need Fathers Scotland, urges schools to be proactive in building positive and inclusive relationships in particular with non-resident parents.

 

Based on research and evidence, the guide identifies the benefits not only in children's academic attainment but also in their conduct and constructive relationships when both parents are involved in supporting their education even when they no longer live together.

 

Schools are required to draw up a parental involvement strategy and review it regularly to ensure both parents are encouraged and supported to become engaged in their child’s education and also to participate in the wider school community. However the researchers found considerable variation between schools and between authorities in the effort they appear to make to reach out to non-resident parents.

 

The report reminds schools of the current legislation, guidance and policy, and highlights examples of best practice across the country. Good practice case studies are drawn from Prestonpans Infant School, East Lothian and South Lanarkshire Council.

 

Marion McLeod, Policy Manager with Children in Scotland said:We know that in general, with some individual exceptions, children benefit for the active support and involvement of both parents.  This is particularly true in terms of educational attainment. 

We appreciate that often schools or other education bodies might find it difficult to manage differing parental expectations when families breakdown, but we know that the child benefits immeasurably when clear, transparent and constructive involvement is achieved. This is the best practice we must strive for.”

 

Ian Maxwell, National Manager of Families Need Fathers Scotland added:It is ten years now since the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act urged schools to 'work hard' to engage with fathers in general and non-resident fathers in particular and to treat both parents with equal respect. Regrettably, we still hear regularly from some non-resident parents that they have felt excluded from communication around their child’s education, or are made to feel they are causing bother by asking for their own copies of newsletters and school reports. We hope this guide will help schools and education authorities work towards a more inclusive approach, for the benefit of all involved, our children above all.”

The guide has been published to coincide with 2016, Scotland's Year of the Dad – although it is noted a non-resident parent may be either a mother or father.

 

FNF Scotland last year published EQUAL PARENTS - a 'user guide' for non-resident parents to clearing the obstacles to involvement in their children's education.

Monday
Feb152016

2006 Family Law Act ripe for reform

The Justice committee of the Scottish Parliament is conducting “post-legislative scrutiny” of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006. The committee describes it as one of the most important pieces of legislation on family law in recent years.

The committee invited a number of organisations - including FNF Scotland - and individuals with an experience of the Act to submit an overview on its effectiveness. Our submission.

The Act covered a range of issues including modernisation of the law as it affected cohabitees. However, FNF Scotland mainly comes up against problems with the Act in connection with sections 23 and 24.

Section 23 extended the possibility of securing Parental Rights and Responsibilities to unmarried fathers and section 24 amended the Children (Scotland) Act to make it a requirement for a judge to take into account allegations of domestic abuse – or the prospect of domestic abuse – when determining the best interests if the child.

FNF Scotland believes it is time for a review of both the Children (Scotland) Acts of 1995 and 2006. Our experience is that in the current climate they support contrived adversarial behaviour and airing of unfounded accusations aimed at controlling contact with a non-resident parent that damages children and both parents.

It is encouraging that several of the other submissions make essentially the same comment.

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 was very much an act of its time but the reality of family life here has moved on from the rather restrictive view portrayed then. We have reviewed the debates in committee and the chamber at the time and it stands out that the tone was very much directed towards controlling family life of unmarried fathers rather than positively promoting it.  We believe the Act remains essentially discriminatory  - as flagged by the Scottish Law Commission a decade earlier - by building into statute that the status of separated fathers is largely contingent on the state of the relationship as perceived by the mother.

In our submission we say, “It is not a sign of good health for any piece of legislation that a perception of unfairness grows around it. There is such a feeling around the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 not only among non-resident parents - most of whom are fathers – but also among the grandparents, new partners and other family members who contact us.  It is a sense that has also been shared with us by members of the legal profession and, on occasion, by members of the bench.”

We believe there is ample evidence from many countries that children do better in all aspects of their life, attainment and wellbeing when both their parents are fully involved in their life and their parents have equal recognition from public services including schools and health providers.

The Justice Committee will take further evidence in its scrutiny exercise in due course. We will report developments here.  Full list of submissions