to call this is sex discrimination at our local Children's Centre?

(109 Posts)
learnasyougo Sat 30-Nov-13 16:25:24

Our local children's centre runs weekly 'Stay and Play' drop in sessions on a weekday morning. My husband (SAHD) often goes to these with our toddler son. It's mostly mums, but there is another father who goes occasionally, too.

Being a weekday morning I can never go (to spend time with DS and see him interact with other children), as I work full time.

Once a month, on a Saturday morning, the same centre runs a 'Dads' Stay and Play' drop-in, so working fathers can a) have the same sort of experience with their children and b) have somewhere to go to give SAHM a break, presumably. I know not all fathers have Saturdays free, but presumably a shift-working father would be able to make the weekly one from time to time, at least.

So my husband asked when the next one would be because his wife (me) would like to go.

"Oh no. It's men only" was the reply. He said his wife works full time, though "yes, a few people have complained about that" but it was left at that.

This is sex discrimination, right? I qualify in every other way, except for the Y chromosome. I can understand a men-only space if this were some sort of support group or talking therapy and having women about might inhibit men.

I'm really annoyed by it. I'm wondering whether they'd actually turn me away if I turned up. I would love to see him in a social environment, interacting with other children and playing with other sorts of toys we don't have at home, and give DH a break. I was annoyed enough at everything on a Saturday always being a 'dads' whatever, yet the regular, normal event is never described as a 'mums' event - a reverse of the 'men as default' so prevalent elsewhere in society.

So, should I just turn up anyway? Next one isn't until next month.

TheSmallClanger Sat 30-Nov-13 16:27:57

Write a complaint letter. Use that post as a template. YANBU.

complexnumber Sat 30-Nov-13 16:35:31

I really doubt if they would turn you away if you appeared at the door and explained why you were there.

Don't make a fuss until you have proper reason to.

Don't write a letter of complaint, people are busy enough as it is.

SadOldGit Sat 30-Nov-13 16:35:37

I dont work in CC so may be wrong (often am) but think that the idea of the Fathers groups was to get more dads involved and may be a funding issue (childrens centres are under threat and a lot of funding is reliant on getting specific groups to attend)

pianodoodle Sat 30-Nov-13 16:38:03

I'd turn up anyway and see what happens.

I don't think you're being unreasonable.

TattyDevine Sat 30-Nov-13 16:41:21

Just look innocent and say "But I am a man"...

If they look at you quizzically, unzip your jeans and make out you are about to flop it out...



OldLadyKnowsNothing Sat 30-Nov-13 16:44:27

I think SadOldGit has it, it'll be a funding issue, probably encouraging men who don't have much time with their dc. No different to women-only events in eg swimming pools.

TheCrackFox Sat 30-Nov-13 16:47:53

DH works 95% of Saturday's so it wouldn't suit a lot of dads either.

CailinDana Sat 30-Nov-13 16:51:31

A woman from my local children's centre came to the playgroup I help to run wondering what makes 30+ families come to us twice a week every week when they're lucky to get 10 through the door. I told it's for reasons like this - inflexible ridiculous policies that confuse and irritate people. The vast majority of CC staff are great but CCs are under the control of both the NHS and OFSTED, two of the most bureaucratic, petty-minded unreasonable organisations ever to exist. Don't bother complaining they can't actually change anything. Some of the policies they have to follow are so ridiculous I thought they were just myths until the CC worker confirmed they actually existed.

lagoonhaze Sat 30-Nov-13 16:52:09

been thinking same today!

CC's now have to target their provision to the most "in need" groups.

It was found that in general, in some areas Working Class (you get the drift) men and particularly under 25's didn't play with their young children. The value of play and the bonding that took place during this was undervalued.

Likewise many males didn't like attending groups with other Mums, in some cases they said that they were undermined.

This research all took place just before the "dad's Count/Father's Matter" type campaigns.

There was and is a need, it us a shame that some Venues cannot offer Working Parents sessions, but that is a funding issue.

I'm sure that if you didn't have a session available you would still play with your child, sadly that isn't the case with done Dads.

Some if the CC will allow a Make Secondary Carer to attend.

There are planned activities and days out attached to this.

There was a real need to get the idea that young children are Women's Work out of peoples heads, in some areas.

There was also a need for a list cost or free appropriate activity for this all to happen.

BodaciousTatas Sat 30-Nov-13 16:57:35

The CC I work in have one dads stay and play per month and one Family Saturday stay and play per month, this was after working mums complained.

Maybe you could suggest it, we had plenty of staff to do this though and I know not all cc's are as lucky.


They are under the jurisdiction of Children and Family Services, ours changed in 2011.

So the provision had to fall into the planning for Families and Young People under ECM and OFSTEAD, Early Years Strategy, to name some, via the LA.

Grennie Sat 30-Nov-13 17:01:47

I think it is fine for them to have a fathers only session. But they should have a weekend session for mothers too. Also some mothers may want a mothers only session?

The CC I used to attend (until someone decided my postcode precluded me) had these. Plus sessions for grandparents. And young mothers.

Not really the same issue but our local pool doesn't allow pre-schoolers weekend or early evening swimming lessons as "most mum are available to take them during the week". When the receptionist told me that I pointed out that it wasn't 1953 and put down the phone. Fortunately another pool nearby does not have this ludicrous policy in place.

Bubbles1066 Sat 30-Nov-13 17:02:46

I think they probably have to provide men only groups. Like my local CC has 2 toddler groups, one anyone can go to and one you have to apply to go to (and will only be accepted if you live on the local council estate). They also have a young parent's group and a Dad's group. So actually, as a SAHM there is only one of the 4 groups that I'm allowed to go to so it's not just working mums that are excluded sometimes. Don't turn up and don't complain, they have to meet their criteria and target certain groups even if it excludes some people.
How about doing swimming lessons or classes like Baby Ballet, Jo Jingles etc (whatever you have locally) instead on a Saturday?

Grennie Sat 30-Nov-13 17:03:29

You do know if you said you were a transman FtoM, they would have to let you attend?

moldingsunbeams Sat 30-Nov-13 17:04:46

We had this at the Children's Centre when they had a Dads and kids science club, I was really annoyed as it meant science mad dd who has no contact with Dad could not go and there was no other on offer. I did go and they did turn me away.

We have a dads club at ours because 99.9% of the time it is Mums who attend.

I was told it was to do with funding.

Rinoachicken Sat 30-Nov-13 17:05:54

OP im in exactly the same situation as you and it really annoys me also.

wonderstuff Sat 30-Nov-13 17:16:34

Just crazy! molding I am angry on your behalf.

worridmum Sat 30-Nov-13 17:18:39

Am sorry but why can women have women only events / areas and thats perfectly ok (a soft play area and swiming pool banned all males over the age of 4) no one cared when a father complained saying it was discimatory as apprently you can discrimate againt men with immpunity.

but as soon as a male only group was introducted into the same area people were up in arms about sex discrimation.

I think its ok to have single gender events if their is a similer option for the left out gender

wonderstuff Sat 30-Nov-13 17:21:13

Meant to add although we have a CC they don't seem to do an awful lot relevant to me. In my village it's the church that run the most popular toddler groups, they are friendly enough, good at identifying new people and you get a cuppa and a biscuit. They started a dad's group and dads get a bacon buttie and newspapers. I get that they feel dads need extra incentive, but seems unfair.

wonderstuff Sat 30-Nov-13 17:22:59

Are there women's only things? I've never come across a group that excludes men.

OddBoots Sat 30-Nov-13 17:26:05

There is nothing wrong with single gender events in the right context, it is the assumption that mums are around in the week and dads are around at the weekend that is discrimination.

If they had women only (or even mixed) events at the weekend too then having a dad group at the weekend wouldn't be a problem. If they did 9am-10.30am dads, 10.30am -12midday mixed then maybe the dads would feel able to hang around a bit longer and mix with a wider range of parents so it would help all.

worridmum Sat 30-Nov-13 17:29:08

come to leicester and alot of places in the midlands there is alot of this discrimatory shit but because its agaisnt men it doesnt get air time / cared about.

it all smells of hpyoicatcy as I had a feminist friend who campained to have a male only theropy session and social group abolished but activitly campaigned for her female only club to remain female only and she had a massive arguement as i called her out on her hypocitacy and basically said men cant be discrimated because they had a penis....

Bubbles1066 Sat 30-Nov-13 17:31:50

Mums in general aren't really their target group though; they have limited funding and have to use it to reach out to the 'hard to reach' groups - dads, young parents, the disadvantaged. It would be great to have mums or a general group on the weekend but there have to heat the place, pay the staff... That's pretty hard to do for a lot of them. Of course there maybe disadvantaged working mums who miss out... But there's probably not that many in all honesty. Since the cuts Children's Centres are more like an extension of health/social services for those needing extra input now rather than being there for everyone. It's a shame but that's the ConDems for you.

OddBoots Sat 30-Nov-13 17:33:16

If you disagree with what the cc is doing is it because:

a) you don't think there should be male carer only events


b) you don't think they only groups to happen at the weekend should be male carer only.

I suspect most of those who think the policy is wrong would say 'b' and are perfectly happy to have male only events provided there is accessible alternative provision.

This isn't about it being wrong because it's men, it would be just as wrong if there were only female groups at the weekend.

ImATotJeSuisUneTot Sat 30-Nov-13 17:36:44

I wasn't allowed to the CCs baby massage class because I didn't fulfil any of the criteria. I work, don't smoke, drink or have a drug problem. I'm living with my babies father. There were places on the course. What a waste.

TheCrackFox Sat 30-Nov-13 17:41:06

I'm in the B category Oddboots.

I can see why there is a need to get dads more involved but not all dads are available at the weekends (loads work shifts nowadays) and not all women can attend Mon-Fri either.

sandfrog Sat 30-Nov-13 17:45:47


PeriodFeatures Sat 30-Nov-13 18:21:49

I think it's great that there are men only groups. Men really really need opportunities to socialise and meet other fathers. Mums have automatically got access to networks and support. I have run men only groups in childrens centres and they are valuable. Fathers can be isolated and feel powerless and they need opportunities to meet together

learnasyougo Sat 30-Nov-13 19:46:48

I don't object to the being a men only group, as I agree, they can feel isolated and may find mums take over, but why can there not be a weekend event for working mums? I'm not the only full time working mother. Even if dh worked full time too we would still have the situation that he is the only one of us allowed to take ds to any stay and play groups, yet BOTH should be catered to. If I were a lp ds and I would be entirely excluded. even more isolating.

quietbatperson Sat 30-Nov-13 19:57:43

manchestermummy your postcode cannot preclude you from going to a particular CC. The CC you are going to may prefer that you go to another one because they aren't effectively funded for you to go there, but they absolutely cannot turn you away from their services.

BohemianGirl Sat 30-Nov-13 20:04:18

but why can there not be a weekend event for working mums? I'm not the only full time working mother

so lobby for a similar group instead of hijacking one

TBH its supply and demand, the old 20/80 equation ..... I've yet to see someone have the hebejeebies ove a female only babysitting service hmm, decorators, cab firm and so fort - but woe betide a male only play group and its sexist

moldingsunbeams Sat 30-Nov-13 20:04:19

quietbat lots of the ones I had contact with where we lived before had maps and if you were not in the boundaries for that map they would not even register you.

Mumoftwoyoungkids Sat 30-Nov-13 20:17:34

We used to go to an under 1s group at the children's centre.

While we were on holiday it was changed to a crawling+ group.

Ds was the littlest there an the only non crawler.

So basically everyone but us is invited. sad

Dd didn't crawl until she was 15 months so if he takes after her he won't get to go until he is too old to go.

Neverland2013 Sat 30-Nov-13 20:24:20

Where we live there are mostly mixed groups (mums & dads). I have to say that when I used to take our DD, I did really feel for some of the dads... as you can see that not all of them feel that comfortable surrounded by women. Saying that, I always thought that they were very brave and in the end is about children. Why should they be at home when their children can enjoy themselves.

OddBoots Sat 30-Nov-13 20:32:31

Mumoftwoyoungkids That's a disgrace, they can't make a group based on the developmental stage of a child, I'm sure that's a clear breach of the Equality Act.

lilyaldrin Sat 30-Nov-13 20:36:42

OP, maybe you could set up a working parents toddler group yourself? See if the CC will let you have a room later in the day on a Saturday, or see if you can hire a church hall or something?

quietbatperson Sun 01-Dec-13 08:11:50

moldingsunbeams - in which case you should speak to Children's Services about whoever is providing the CC provision in your area. You cannot be excluded, it's as simple as that <stops channelling CS Commissioners>

iamadoozermum Sun 01-Dec-13 09:23:36

We're in the same situation - DH is SAHD and I work full-time being out of the house from 6.15am to 7pm, Monday-Friday, so no chance to attend any weekday events. There are no other baby groups at the weekend like swimming or music for us to go to either. So I have no opportunities to meet other mums or develop networks with other parents (other than Mumsnet!). DH doesn't want to go to the Saturday men's group as he is grouped-out by then and it's me that wants the experience. DH was CC parent rep and raised it and I've raised it a number of times but they say it is all to do with funding so tough. I don't want them to stop Men only Saturday groups but it would be lovely to add a Working Parents group too.

brettgirl2 Sun 01-Dec-13 09:32:45

If you want to go then go.

In relation to comments from others it isnt going to help you make friends with other mums though! dh goes and its great actually.

OP I suspect that if you went to toddler groups they would probably lose their appeal pretty fast. Get an annual pass for a local children's attraction instead and go there with lo at the weekend.

Mummytotwox Sun 01-Dec-13 09:45:42

I want to go to a group with my ds he's 4, global development delay so he plays/acts like a 3 yo.

Was told there is no groups we can go too, there all for babies.

Thurlow Sun 01-Dec-13 09:47:12

I can see why they are doing this, but it is annoying. I contacted my CC recently to ask if they could maybe help with advertising or putting together a casual group for weekend mums - DP works most weekends and I struggle sometimes. I'm sure there must be plenty of other mums who wouldn't mind a coffee or a play in the park at weekends. But all they said was "no, we don't do anything except for dads once a month" and that was it. Thanks there, C hmm

ChilliJo Sun 01-Dec-13 09:51:26

I work in a CC. This time last year we had 5 groups on our weekly timetable that were 'universal' (open for all to attend). We are now down to 1 sad .

It is all down to government/LeA targets as to who the most deprived and needy subsets of the population are that year.

If you are father who is an ex offender, with a child with diagnosed SEN, who lives in a dodgy postcode then you will be practically dragged through the door. If you are a married mum, living in a decent area with your 2 pre-school children then you can fuck off. (Unless you announce that either you or the kids live in certain circumstances or have a certain medical or MH condition that you are happy to announce and sign a form stating so).

It is so incredibly short sighted and based on years of experience of seeing how these targeted groups are initiated and then fail, it's seeing up CCs to fail and missing the opportunity to help 'normal' families who need just as much support and who often get far more from the sessions than those who are ticking more boxes. angry

YouStoleMyHat Sun 01-Dec-13 10:06:09

quietbat is that really true? I had the same experience as manchestermummy except the boundaries where I live make it so that the 3 nearest CCs to me aren't the one I'm "allowed" to attend! It's a really odd system and means a lot of people are effectively excluded if they can't get travel the several miles to their "allocated" CC. I complained but they told me that was how it was. Could you point me in the direction of guidance that says this isn't the case?

flatpackhamster Sun 01-Dec-13 10:25:51


OP, maybe you could set up a working parents toddler group yourself? See if the CC will let you have a room later in the day on a Saturday, or see if you can hire a church hall or something?

This. I can't believe it's that hard to round up a group of mums on a weekend.

DumSpiroSpero Sun 01-Dec-13 10:34:42

I also work at a CC and sadly these problems are all down to politics/funding.

We are given targets to meet and have to jump through hoops or risk losing funding and therefore jobs which in turn will mean even less available for families.

It is all assessed to the Nth degree too sad .

We are currently in the ridiculous situation of having to promote breastfeeding as one of our annual targets, yet we are not allowed to hold a bf support group as the other local CFC has one already confused . Never mind all the parents who have older dcs at our nursery and neither the time or transport to get to another Centre for this group angry .

I know it's not a real solution but if it's 'just' a case of wanting to see your DS interacting in a different environment, presumably you could take the occasional day of annual leave and go along to one of the week day groups?

FudgefaceMcZ Sun 01-Dec-13 10:51:06

It is discrimination, unlike womens/mens only swimming sessions where there are some religious and cultural reasons that some people need single-gender groups, there is no need for single gender playgroups unless they're nudist ones ffs. If women try and organise something women only then everyone is up in arms saying 'oh no reverse discrimination poor men' (see also earlier in this very thread), so most womens services have been cut, but apparently now it's ok to have these just because men 'feel left out' in groups with lots of mums, even though it's hardly as though the mums are turning them away (tbh the complete opposite, most playgroups I've seen are overjoyed to have men turning up, and men are already treated like something superhuman just for looking after their own kids). You should send in an official complaint.

TiggyD Sun 01-Dec-13 11:13:17

A lot of men don't like going to places like playgroups that are mostly women. Partly due to not being able to cope in a female environment, partly due to sexist attitudes shown by some women, and I dare say partly fear of being branded a weirdo for wanting to hang around where children are.
There should also be weekend groups for women but I just don't think there is such a need for it as a men's group. CCs would target the bigger need.

lilyaldrin Sun 01-Dec-13 12:12:43

What about young parents' groups for parents under 19/21/25 or whatever - is that age discrimination then?

AmberLeaf Sun 01-Dec-13 12:26:21

I expect it is down to funding issues, CCs funding has been cut massively.

I don't think the Dads groups should be compromised as there is a need. I read lots on here about how intimidating some Mums find parent and toddler groups, I know from my experience of running one that men do find them hard to access. Dad only groups are a good thing.

When funds get cut, those in the greatest need are prioritised rightly so.

lilyaldrin Sun 01-Dec-13 12:37:27

I agree with Amber - times have changed and it's not like the early days of CCs where groups were available to everyone (and often ended up taken over by middle class SAHMs who were pleased to find free baby massage). Money is tighter, CCs are more accountable, and target groups have to be prioritised over working mums who just want to see their DC interacting with other children unfortunately. But there is nothing to stop the OP trying to set up her own Saturday toddler group or just taking her DC to softplay and watching them there.

Grennie Sun 01-Dec-13 13:52:15

I don't have an issue with men's only groups. But does this mean people will stop attacking women's only groups as "sexist"?

RevoltingPeasant Sun 01-Dec-13 14:36:13


Genuine question, not being narky - this - Men really really need opportunities to socialise and meet other fathers. Mums have automatically got access to networks and support.

How do mums 'automatically' have support? confused

If they are working Mon-Fri 9-5 where is this coming from?

KatAndKit Sun 01-Dec-13 14:55:24

When i had my baby i did not automatically have support. I relied on the CC to meet other mums with babies. Fortunately in my area the provision is very good and you do not need to be a disabled teenage crack addict to attend. They do however have the dads groups at the weekend and nothing for mothers who have returned to work. It is a bit of a shame because the dads group does not have a massive attendance as far as i am aware and it is the only group on at the weekend so plenty of space to run a more inclusive group alongside. However it does probably come down to funding.

PeriodFeatures Sun 01-Dec-13 15:05:23

revoltingpeasant yes, good point. I didn't articulate that very well.

What I meant to say is that mothers have support networks in place before babies are born. There are midwives, health visitors, lots of groups that are tailored towards supporting mothers and helping mums build their social and informal support networks.

From the offest ALL this support is focused at Mum and Baby. Men are not expected to attend health appointments and often when they do they are excluded. HV will undertake an initial assessment and ask lots of questions which determine parenting capacity. Men are generally not involved in this process.

Men are not often asked how they are coping with new parenthood, the language used by health professionals doesn't promote equality in parenting.
'Does he help you?' 'how are you finding motherhood?'

The benefits system favours mothers. Tax credits will be paid to mother iven in two seperated parents have equal arrangements.

Men, due to this have LESS POWER than women when it comes to parenting. Groups are often formed to address power imbalances.

littleducks Sun 01-Dec-13 16:10:10

Dh went to the equivalent group at our CC once. There were 3 dads and a female CC worker. One of the dads hired out soft play equipment for parties and things and catered for the group. So effectively two dads, a CC worker and a dad bringing his kids along to an event he is working at.

I used to go to tumble tots, soft play, toddler art groups and playgroups pretty much daily at the time. There were always more dads than that at everything.

VashtaNerada Sun 01-Dec-13 16:16:10

YANBU! I was so upset to be excluded from the CC once I went back to work.

teacherlikesapples Sun 01-Dec-13 16:37:26

Part of the key role of a children's centre is to promote parent engagement & education and offering a range of provision to make that information accessible to ALL parents.

There are several reasons why they have Dad only stay & plays.
Children's centres are often usually staffed by majority female staff. They also collect a lot of information & feedback from their users.

Substantial feedback from fathers said that they felt more comfortable coming into the setting if they knew other Dad's would be there. Many felt outnumbered or judged at general stay & plays, and certainly didn't feel it was a safe place for seeking support. By having a Father's only session it gives that guarantee.

It also allows targeted information that is relevant to fathers to be given at those sessions and allows fathers to make connections & get support from other fathers.

Children's centres also often offer other targeted stay & plays- for childminders, Speakers of additional languages, Bengali mothers or teenage parents. They try and aim sessions at 'hard to reach' or groups that don't attend the general stay & plays. Those groups deserve a safe place, where they can access the same information that the rest of us can easily access already. Would you feel discriminated about being excluded from those to?

I am sure they also offer general parent stay & plays.

Why do people feel the need to be offended or discriminated against? These groups make a world of difference to people that need it- please don't ruin it for them.

IneedAwittierNickname Sun 01-Dec-13 17:07:54

Our local church/community centre has the same thing. A weekday toddler group for all parents/child carers, and a Saturday one for dads only.
Always seemed unfair to me

OddBoots Sun 01-Dec-13 18:00:13

"I am sure they also offer general parent stay & plays." But not at a time when working parents can access them, if they did then this wouldn't be problem, no-one minds a dad only group.

Why aren't working parents regarded as a hard to reach group because they certainly seem like they are and they need the chance to meet with and share support with other parents too.

Grennie Sun 01-Dec-13 18:05:28

Because women are expected to either not work, or only work part time. Outmoded ideas about the realities for many mothers.

lilyaldrin Sun 01-Dec-13 18:13:00

Working parents aren't a priority group, because they are generally able to pay for activities for their children at the weekend if they want to, children will often be in nursery during the week, working parents can use other support networks.

The government isn't funding opportunities for working parents to go to toddler groups at the weekend because it isn't worth their while to do so, basically.

teacherlikesapples Sun 01-Dec-13 18:31:57

Since the funding cuts- the priorities have had to be refocused to the groups that can have a major impact in areas of concern health, attainment or other issue. Working parents, as a gross generalisation are not a concern group or considered 'hard to reach'. They usually have enough resource to access services independently. Now if you happen to be a single working parent, or a parent of multiple births (or fit into some other target group then there is probably a group for you) They hopefully still have family support workers (some boroughs still have some!) They can make housecalls at a time convenient for working parents that need support & signpost to other suitable services.

There used to be a lot more on offer- but so much has been shut down/reduced.

AmberLeaf Sun 01-Dec-13 18:38:28

There is also the issue of Dads who have access to their children at weekends. I have seen a flyer in the past that was directed at Dads in that position.

OddBoots Sun 01-Dec-13 18:43:54

Maybe CCs could only open 4 days a week but 2 of those be Saturday and Sunday - it would reduce the hours so would cost them less but they could run things at times that would better suit the people who'd use them.

Just because you are working it doesn't mean you have any more spare money for more expensive activities than those not working - lots of working families, both dual and lone parent, are just about getting by.

lilyaldrin Sun 01-Dec-13 18:48:16

The bottom line is that targetting working parents is less important because it doesn't improve outcomes for disadvantaged children. Cutting weekday services for priority groups in order to cater for non-priority groups is never going to happen.

Grennie Sun 01-Dec-13 18:55:16

So why does targeting working dads improve outcomes for disadvantaged children?

lilyaldrin Sun 01-Dec-13 19:01:05

Positive involvement of fathers in their children's early years does improve outcomes for children. Fathers' groups have been found to be one way of increasing fathers' involvement.

quietbatperson Sun 01-Dec-13 19:06:41

YouStoleMyHat - I'd love to but all of the info is at work and I am on maternity leave and I haven't the foggiest how to find it online (if I go any further I will likely out myself).

Please do speak to Children's Services, and if necessary ask for the contact details of the local 0-5 Commissioner so that you can speak to them about it directly.

This is an issue many CC providers don't understand unfortunately and it has turned in to an urban legend that you can only attend the CC that you fall within the catchment area of.

lilyaldrin Sun 01-Dec-13 19:11:52

I know my CC wouldn't turn people away, but we did get slated by Ofsted recently based on the postcodes of people attending the groups (being the wrong ones). How are CCs supposed to get round that? Presumably Ofsted would rather people were turned away, or maybe groups were made invite only?

teacherlikesapples Sun 01-Dec-13 19:12:12

Grennie - They are not only targeting working Dads, but all Dads.
I'm sure it's obvious to most people how having a father involved in their child's learning & improving their parenting skills will improve outcomes.

Some CCs might schedule their sessions on a Saturday because of custody/availability of space/survey of the local need.

If people really felt passionate about their CC needing to offer a wider range of services to families, they should communicate that with their local CC & MP and also consider the issue when voting next election.

Phineyj Sun 01-Dec-13 19:21:00

YANBU, it is unfair (if understandable given targets & funding), and since returning to work full time myself I have noticed the lack of provision at weekends. Our local playgroup (privately run) do themed one-offs on a Saturday in the school holidays. They sell out. As a teacher, I really appreciate their offer, as most groups don't run in the school holidays. I can see why you don't want to start your own though - setting up a successful group is hard work!

Tanith Sun 01-Dec-13 19:25:23

Childminders groups are no longer a target group - not that we ever got much funding at our CCs.

I've set up, or helped to set up no less than 4 playgroups at various Centres and they've all followed the same pattern: in the beginning, we all work well in partnership, we share planning and resources for the whole CC and the childminders are treated as equals.

Then, invariably, the rot sets in. The Centre becomes busier and management starts to resent that room let out to us. We're passed from room to room, or we're discouraged from attending.
Finally, the funding is reduced or cut and we're thrown out. Happens every time.

Where I live, they've sold off many of the CCs to a private nursery chain. All that public money that was ploughed in to making the CCs a really fantastic place for children has been for a private entrepreneur's benefit. I see this happening more and more in the future.

TeamSouthfields Sun 01-Dec-13 19:29:27

why can't men just have there own group, with a rest from women.. I think this is a good thing

I think it's a good thing.

Frankly considering how busy you seem to believe yourself you are finding a lot of time to be grumpy on this. One event where dads can go and be welcomed, compared to the 95% of the time most groups are only attended by women. Additionally, why a Saturday? Most working mums I know are four days with Friday being most ideal, this in my area Saturday would therefore mean no one would go. Fine, argue but for gawds sake include a better suggestion.

Tanith, had exactly the same issue just as a parent. Set up groups, had great relationship, council realised we were v popular, moved us about, still can't get numbers on theirs, cut our group entirely. Sour grapes and muppets the lot of them.

quietbatperson Sun 01-Dec-13 19:56:58

Lily - I would recommend the CC checks its contract with the Local Authority and shows it to Ofsted (if it's helpful). You may have KPIs for reaching particular groups and particular postcodes or 70%/30% areas etc. If you are reaching those KPIs, then Ofsted can frankly do one and take it up with the local authority that awarded the contract.

IdaClair Sun 01-Dec-13 20:05:25

IN all my dealings with childrens centres I have come up against ridiculous rules, thoughtlessness and bureaucratic nonsense.

Desperately in need of BF support, which was available at the baby group for under 1s - no older children allowed, so most second+ time parents excluded. BF support group ran 3-4pm on a weekday, meaning no BF support for people with children in school.

Baby clinic that won't weigh my 10 month old because they need different scales for babies that can stand and they don't have them, directed to a CC across the city.

Can't light a candle on a birthday cake for a child due to health and safety.

There are actually no groups I can attend at my local centre, not one, and they run several a week (childminders - I'm not one - Multiples - I don't have them - Under 1s - I have a toddler - BF support - school run time - family learning/learning point stuff - I don't fit criteria as I am not single or under 25 etc etc etc) I have also been excluded at other centres due to postcode and refused entry EVEN when I've been referred over by my local centre because I can't access their services.

KatAndKit Sun 01-Dec-13 20:36:22

The refusing entry thing is awful. In my town there are four centres, one big and three small ones. I am only just in the postcode for the big one. But even if i lived in the next street i would still be able to access most of the services in the large centre, there are only a few groups that are catchment area only due to their popularity. And to be honest i have never seen a parent turned away. If you live in the catchment you can also apply for creche to enable you to have your toddler cared for while you attend baby group, bf support or similar groups.

it is such a shame that some councils provide brilliant services for children but they are so bad elsewhere.

waterrat Sun 01-Dec-13 20:57:07

I was turned away from the cc in the street next to my home - I was so excited about signing up and was really upset when they told me I lived in the wrong London borough by one street. I think it's really wrong that other mums were streaming in and using the lovely groups on offer and I was sent away - I lived about 3 minutes walk away.

Mums are vulnerable in those early months and all the people attending that centre were my community and neighbours - how on earth can that make sense ?

OddBoots Sun 01-Dec-13 21:05:30

They didn't exist when my children were little so I thought I'd missed out but it sounds like there seem to be so many rules that it's debatable if they are worth it at all. I'm sure the people who work in them do their best though.

teacherlikesapples Sun 01-Dec-13 22:04:43

Waterrat- again this is due to funding cuts. Each borough funds it's own CCs. So as money got tight, they cut services, then started to only focus on each borough's residents.

Grennie Mon 02-Dec-13 00:25:14

teacher - If CCs are only focussing on the most disadvantaged, why would it focus on all dads? Surely a lot of dads already play with their children?

lilyaldrin Mon 02-Dec-13 00:29:43

Getting dads more involved benefits all children, so in encouraging dads as a group, disadvantaged children will benefit too.

It's a bit like having a young parents group - some mums under 22 will really need support, some will be married/partnered, have a working partner, own their own home. But as a whole, increasing support for young parents improves outcomes for children.

Grennie Mon 02-Dec-13 00:44:54

But working mums are excluded from that idea?

CailinDana Mon 02-Dec-13 06:58:59

What really gets me about the whole thing is the fact that they make the lovely assumption that the poorer you are the more likely you are to be a bad parents plus people who.are partnered or married couldn't possibly need support because...well I don't know why they make that assumption...because if a woman has a man then she's sorted? At my local CC they openly commented that they didn't want my friend to attend a course. All they know about her is that she lives in the postcode with bigger houses and she's married and on the basis of that alone they deemed her not to need their services. Says a lot about British society IMO.

ILetHimKeep20Quid Mon 02-Dec-13 07:16:44

The thing is if you're working, coping, doing ok at this parenting thing then you aren't really within their target group anyway.

It doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to see why dad's need targeted. Many probably only actually have their children at the weekends.

Whole projects are funded, people employed, just for dad's groups. It's not discrimination, it's meeting need.

DumSpiroSpero Mon 02-Dec-13 07:25:58

I am shocked that people actually get turned away from CC's - we have our target groups but I can't imagine we'd ever turn someone away. In the very worst case scenario, if they wanted some kind of support that we were not able to offer we would at least have a conversation with them and try and help them find somewhere that could provide they help they needed.

Caillin - the whole middle class families don't need help thing drives me up the wall too. I was a 29yo married, home owning woman with a good job to go back to when DD was born. It didn't stop me having crushing PND and I would have loved to have had our Centre round the corner back then (DD was 4 by the time it became a CC). Being middle class doesn't immunise families against divorce, redundancy, ill health, bereavement, birth defects, SEN etc.

Also, the 'sharp elbowed middle class mums' that were bringing their toddlers to our Centre 5 years ago (pre ConDems) are now the people giving their time for free as volunteers to help keep services going in the face of massive funding cuts.

Sorry OP - off on a tangent there but it's something that really riles me!

CailinDana Mon 02-Dec-13 07:35:42

Oh and one friend who does fit their criteria - single parent on benefits - found them patronising and unhelpful. When she mentioned going back to education they "helpfully" provided her with information on mature students sitting gcses. If they'd stopped making assumptions for a second they'd have realised she was planning on doing her second degree. They have the cheek to call her "one of our success stories" despite the fact that she found them so useless she set up her own playgroup (the kne I now help to run) which attracts at least triple the numbers they attract.

Ah absolutely, middle classes have no issues. DV, alcohol, drugs, one parent, racial mixes, young parents, bf/or not, old parents, twins, pnd, only actually occur in those earning under minimum wage.

Our group had people from 18 different countries. But as was parent led they got us out. They were so busy ticking clipboard sheets they didn't notice their groups were crap!

Grennie Mon 02-Dec-13 09:47:13

I have no issue with fathers only groups. I do have an issue with the assumption that working fathers are a disadvantaged group, and working mothers are not.

What this is saying is that most fathers don't play with their kids, whereas mothers do. Is that really true?

lilyaldrin Mon 02-Dec-13 09:56:29

Yes, it's true that fathers are less likely to be involved with their children than mothers. It's also true that outcomes for children are improved if fathers become more involved.

AmberLeaf Mon 02-Dec-13 10:17:33

What really gets me about the whole thing is the fact that they make the lovely assumption that the poorer you are the more likely you are to be a bad parents

I know what you mean, but, IME of CCs [in the early days of them-my children are older now] it was about having access to play facilities and activities that if you are poor you wont have or can't do at home. Things like 'messy play' and giant floor hand and feet painting, If you have very limited funds or live in a tiny flat with no garden those things are not practical.

As I said, my experience of CCs is a few years ago now, when they were first starting up. I remember there was one being set up just around the corner from where I lived on a large council estate that was identified as a deprived area. I signed up for mailshots about upcoming activities. I got a letter about a messy play session that would be starting with a date to come down and book a place. I went at 9am on that date to be told that the places were all full. I said to them that's odd, how can the places be full already, that can't be right? I was the first person in the centre as they opened?

I asked to see the manager/person in charge and he came down and ended up giving me places for my 1 and 4 yr old. When I went along, all of the other families present were MC Mums who lived a few roads away [not on the estate] in the big houses on the expensive rds. A lot of them appeared to know the manager.

Those families were not the families that these things were supposedly being targeted to.

Other Mums I knew from my estate were put on waiting lists, every activity I signed up for had these MC Mums attending.

I know people in other areas that had similar experiences, so I can understand why they make such a thing of targeting particular groups of people.

I know that being MC doesn't exclude you from being isolated or having problems etc, but the centre was opened in my area specifically because lots of the families living there had children with no nursery place [the local school favoured those living out of the estate] living in poor housing.

In those days, there was definitely an abuse of the facilities.

Grennie Mon 02-Dec-13 10:24:26

lily - Okay thanks. I knew that women did much more of the actual work of childcare than men. But I thought most men did play with their kids. I was obviously wrong.

SignoraStronza Mon 02-Dec-13 11:06:38

They have this at our local one. Only thing that annoys me is that they get a bacon butty while we aren't even offered a cuppa!

youretoastmildred Mon 02-Dec-13 11:49:21

In some demographics, there is a need to reassure potential users that the event will be strictly single sex or people won't go.

However, doing man stuff only at the weekends does reinforce the idea that childcare is women's work (pace the poster above who said the opposite). It makes men doing things a weekend exception and makes a song and dance about men needing to be lured there with promises of no overbearing chatty silly women, whereas women just get on with it all week.

(I took dd1 to stay-and-plays when heavily pregnant and with newborn dd2 and I didn't like having too many men around. There were one or two and they always nicked a seat if I a. found one and b. got out of it for two seconds to wipe a nose or something. No mother would ever have pinched a seat from a 41-week pregnant woman limping with spd. Also I am usually a casual and unflappable bf-er but some of them seemed weird about it, although I can do it through an invisible gap. Although the staff there were lovely it was in some ways a bit of a difficult place for the peri-natal and looking back on it I think I was too shy about asking for help with needing chairs with spd and not having anywhere safe to put dd2 for a minute and things like that. Odd oversight.)

"Caillin - the whole middle class families don't need help thing drives me up the wall too. " yep.
But also - take the class thing out of it for a minute. If some in society need more help than others (true enough if you don't say which), then surely it is in everyone's interests that all of the above mix anyway. Everyone, no matter how great a parent you are, needs somewhere for their toddler to play and get out and about with other children before going to school. If you make certain kinds of other help available as part of mainstream events, which everyone is expected to attend, you don't ghetto-ise the "non-coping". Surely that is a good thing? You don't stigmatise anyone, you are offering discreet support and advice to those who need it, and meanwhile normal functional playing and socialising and parenting is taking place in full view of everyone, including maybe some parents who need to see it, who may have not seen it before. The difficulty with why well-off people should be funded to play with their children could be solved through taxation. From each according to their means, to each according to their needs.

MiaowTheCat Mon 02-Dec-13 13:35:40

I'm expecting to be one of the group quietly sidelined out of our local children's centre soon enough - you know, middle class mother, husband on hand therefore needs no help whatsoever etc etc. However when they were set up - lots of the little traditional playgroups closed down - and the ones that remain aren't really useful to us - they're either too far away (we're in a bit of a dead patch in terms of provision in our local area... right on the boundary with another county so sort of forgotten about) or they're the sort who do things like tea and toast - with my kids that's potentially such a logistical nightmare - DD1 would be doing laps cleaning up the leftovers and scrounging, while DD2 would need to be helicoptered to fuck because of allergy issues!

I've told them quite bluntly though - if they need to use the fact we've got previous social services involvement (malicious referral - nowt more sinister btw), or I have mental health and mobility issues in order to whack up their usage statistics in the right way to ensure their survival... fine by me - I know it's all playing the numbers game to produce the right nice graphs to keep the funding coming in. However since they've started doing monthly questionnaires for Ofsted I have started writing on the future improvements box "please stop giving us questionnaires constantly - it's scaring people away!" every single time! Ours does have the gender thing fairly OK though - got about 2-3 regular attending fathers who come either on their own or with their partner, plus others that pop in when they're off work and whatever (or in DH's case get bribed to come down and help me out with the offer of a bacon butty on the way home).

My big gripe with ours is the way that certain sessions have become particularly dominated by one very nasty clique. Well I say clique, but what I realise more and more is it's actually gone beyond clique into bullying - they'll stake out corners and toys for their kids and sit in the corner with their backs across blocking access to any other kids getting in... their behaviour is so awful that I've noticed Dd1 visibly withdraws and becomes anxious when the ringleader shoes up with their child - hence after 19 months, they've finally succeeded in hounding me (I was the most stubborn - they'd hounded most people out long ago) out of one session in particular.

teacherlikesapples Mon 02-Dec-13 17:53:48

Not sure if people aren't reading the whole thread & ignoring the facts.

Sure it would be lovely to have special groups for every parent. That would be amazing, because parenting is hard & everyone needs and deserves support. The fact is- there is not enough funding for that.

At my previous centre- when we had general stay & plays they would be full of lovely middle class Mums. So full in fact- there was no room for anyone else. These are the same parents who were educated & resourced enough to buy and access the help they needed, if they did. Of course some of those Mums might have had other issues- they aren't immune to problems, no one is saying that. But these Mums didn't identify themselves as having those problems.

In the feedback we got from other minority attendees (Fathers, refugees etc...) They said they felt intimidated in this environment.

Funding cuts have meant CC's have had to scale back to the absolute basics of their core function. Target the 'hard to reach' groups. Those that research have shown have the biggest issues with low engagement, attainment or health etc...

For those complaining that the CCs think middle class don't have issues- well that is silly. CC's don't assume that- there is support available for specific issues-single parents, multiple births, mental health, drug addiction etc... Again what is available will depend on how much of the funding has been cut from that centre. Most used to have teams of family support workers that could come & have tea with you after work, but most of those are gone now. Complain to your MP if you think this is unacceptable & fill in the dreaded feedback forms. It is the only way it has a chance to change.

Each CC will be slightly different. As decided by the needs of the borough.
For those still not understanding or complaining that the men's groups get bacon butties or special treatment- the organisers are responding to LOW ENGAGEMENT. Some men have said they need a safe place to learn, meet others Dads, some only get access on weekends. The fact is these men were not attending the general stay & plays. So it makes sense for CCs to try different approaches to increase their access & respond to feedback.

Dad's can obviously go to the general open stay & play to- there they will get the same treatment as Mums. No extras, bacon butties or cups of tea. We used to offer this at our sessions a few years ago, but again since our budget was slashed by about 40% this is a luxury we cannot afford. So again- the priority is one the low engagement, 'hard to reach' groups.

Sorry for the rant- but it frustrates me that CC workers try their hardest to get the right support to those that need it most in the face of huge budget cuts.This sense of entitlement & 'being offended' seems misplaced and unhelpful.

Grennie Mon 02-Dec-13 18:15:29

I have no problem at all with dads only sessions. It just saddens me that there are never mums only sessions. There are mums in target groups who won't go to a mixed session. But their needs tend to get ignored.

AmberLeaf Mon 02-Dec-13 18:17:22

But often the sessions other than the 'dads only' ones are dominated by Mums anyway.

They end up being Mums only.

KatAndKit Mon 02-Dec-13 18:27:02

miaow have you not had a word with the staff? They should have intervened with that behaviour.

flatpackhamster Mon 02-Dec-13 18:54:08


I have no problem at all with dads only sessions. It just saddens me that there are never mums only sessions. There are mums in target groups who won't go to a mixed session. But their needs tend to get ignored.

By default, almost every session of everything is 'mums only' - swimming, children's centre, coffee mornings at churches...

bryte Mon 02-Dec-13 21:17:56

OP If you can stomach it, how about taking your DS to a softplay area on a weekend morning. There are usually areas sectioned off for toddlers. Sometimes museums have events for families at weekends.

ILetHimKeep20Quid Tue 03-Dec-13 09:16:51

You would probably find the sessions quite structured and tailored to the situation of the dad's that attend.

PeriodFeatures Wed 04-Dec-13 20:29:38

miaow this is unacceptable at the CC. the workers should be managing the dynamics better.

Topaz25 Thu 05-Dec-13 11:36:54

I do think it seems a bit sexist because it assumes men can only attend on a Saturday because they are the ones working full time and women can attend during the week because they are the ones staying at home. The children's centre should be more up to date! Try writing to them about your concerns. It sounds like you are not the only working mum who would like to attend so maybe they can do a weekend meeting for mums too.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Thu 05-Dec-13 11:45:05

I actually think the idea of a Dads session is a good one and it would be undermined by opening to women too as, let's face it, more women than men would probably end up going. I do think you would be reasonable to ask them to consider having a weekend session that was also open to women however.

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