David Cameron, you should be ashamed of yourself.

This government might do well to reconsider its leader.   On Father’s day, a time to celebrate the men who give life to our children alongside mothers, David Cameron has launched one of the most bigoted attacks on dads that I have ever read, and he, supposedly the leader of the party that supports the family.

I was astonished to read the rhetoric.   In an article for Father’s Day for the Sunday Telegraph Cameron said:

“It’s high time runaway dads were stigmatised, and the full force of shame was heaped upon them,” he said. “They should be looked at like drink-drivers, people who are beyond the pale. They need the message rammed home to them, from every part of our culture, that what they’re doing is wrong – that leaving single mothers, who do a heroic job against all odds, to fend for themselves simply isn’t acceptable.”

Does this man work for the  single parent campaign group Gingerbread, I wonder?  If not, then they should snap him up quick.  I have never read anything so ‘on message’ since the nineteen eighties.  Given that Gingerbread have succeeded for nearly two decades in persuading us all that family separation is all about men running off, leaving women to cope single handedly, David Cameron should be made their ambassador.  What an insult and utter shame that he has so little understanding of the real world of family separation that he falls back upon the stereotypes and the myths that have been created around such a painful experience.

Who are these ‘runaway fathers’ I wonder.

Perhaps its Garry from the North East, who, just like Cameron’s own father, rose at 6am every morning to work ten hour days to feed and clothe his four children, only to find one day when he got home that his wife had taken them and left him?  Or maybe, Alan from Cambridge, who had to live in the garage for a year because he had nowhere else to go and he didn’t want to leave his children in the care of his mentally ill wife who repeatedly attacked him? Could it be Freddie, a dad who worked in the City and made a lot of money, whose wife took  his two children and flew to the States, keeping them there against court orders for seven years.

Family separation affects the whole of our society  and it cannot be stereotyped, categorised or understood in a few sentences.  Each and every family separation is different and yes, there are fathers who walk away and don’t  look back, but equally, there are mothers who run away, take the kids away and all hope of relationships between dad and kids away forever.

Working with separated families  means that I see what people do to each other and I know how each of them is advantaged and disadvantaged by family policies and practices in the UK.  I know that separated dads start from a doubly disadvantaged position, they are neither supported in their care for children nor encouraged in their efforts to stay close. Dads are pushed away and given every reason to walk away and then when they do, we berate them for doing so.

Cameron described in the article how he had learned his values from his own father, Ian Cameron, who died last year aged 77. “From my father, I learned about responsibility. Seeing him get up before the crack of dawn to go and do a hard day’s work and not come back until late at night had a profound impact on me,” he said.

What David Cameron doesn’t understand is that whether dads run away or mothers run away, it’s always dad who is blamed for the break down.  Justifying the way that we treat separated fathers, means keeping the stereotype of the runaway dad alive.  Keep your marriage intact  Mr Cameron, you too could the next deadbeat dad if Samantha tires of you.

This message about fathers from a man who is supposed to be supporting ‘the family’ is shameful.  It is lazy,  it is spiteful and it is ill informed.   Out there are some of the most heroic fathers it is possible to meet, separated dads who stick in for years, fighting to be with their children against all the odds.  Dads who shape up, step up and pay up, often over the odds in order to make sure that their children do not suffer.  This is an equalities issue and in any other field, Cameron would be hauled over the coals for such discriminatory remarks.

In the shadow of a gender equality duty that lacks balls, I sincerely hope that Superman, Spiderman and Batman are dusting off their outfits even as I write.

17 comments

  1. Emma · June 19, 2011

    As much as I agree that many fathers do “shape up, step up and pay up, often over the odds in order to make sure that their children do not suffer”, and not someone who has ever claimed to be a fan of David Cameron, yet alone the Conservative party, I do think that he is actually refering to runaway dads, not fathers who work all hours of the day to support a family, or who actually want their children despite the hearthache a separation or divorce can bring. Both my own sister’s children and my godson, a very good friend’s son, were left soon after their birth, and neither of the fathers can be tracked down without the involvement of lawyers. My neices are both paid 5 pounds/month each by their father, my sister’s ex partner, who left them soon after the second child was born. The only reason the money appears in the children’s account is because the government takes it out of his account. He has never spent any time with his youngest daughter who has no idea what a father is, and has never voluntarily paid a penny towards their care. If it weren’t for the government and the help of our parents, my sister would be left in a paralysed state, just because her ex-partner decided oneday to have a panic attack over his adult responsibilities. Not all stories are black and white and not all single mothers are social security thieves.

    Some women, and even some men, are left in situations beyond their control. Any man or woman, I’m afraid, who walks out on his or her family and refuses to recognise his/her obligations as a father/mother, is a criminal. I don’t live in the UK any more but it seems to be breeding a nation of disrespect, where the family means little, and children are becoming mere accessories, in turn learning to exploit and degrade any obligations and responsibility to the people closest to them.

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    • karenwoodall · June 20, 2011

      Hi Emma, the problem is that politically, David Cameron is using the same old tired ploy of stereotyping, which means that he is using the term runaway dads as if all separated dads are the kind of dads who walk away. This is a big problem for separated fathers who do a wonderful job, they are treated by politicians and family policy developers as if they are the same as runaway dads. Current family policy is built upon stereotypes of dads who don’t care or don’t pay, it means that the dads that do both are treated as badly as those that don’t. And its not just in policy terms either, too many people still believe that families separate because dads disappear, its just not true. Some dads do, many dads don’t.

      I didn’t have a great dad, he ran off with a younger woman leaving me to care for my mum, he fits the stereotype perfectly. My daughter’s dad left me to bring her up alone. You would imagine that I would leading the dads are bad campaign based upon my personal experience. But, I am surrounded by wonderful fathers and I work with them every single day. I know that we are not doing right when we speak as if all separated dads are the same. To lose a father is incredibly painful, to have a father pushed out of your life through the ignorance of policy makers and practitioners is an utter tragedy. I hope you understand.

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      • Mike · June 20, 2011

        The problem is that we are all bunched together and are disadvantaged when it comes to our rights with our children.

        In my case my ex wife didn’t work ‘officially’, she had an ebay business that earned her double my pay packet each month, it also caused her to work at weekends and during the evening after I arrived home.

        Since we split she started claiming benefits as well and is currently getting 3 times my wage, legal aid for the court cases and because she ‘officially’ doesn’t work she got the residency I have a big problem with that as during the normal working day the kids are at school, and while we were together and even after we split while I was in still in the house I actually was caring for the children more than she was basically she took them to school and picked them up, then spent an hour and a half with them.
        I was getting up with them and getting their breakfasts, coming home doing homework, making teas etc my ex has basically used them as a tool to gain extra cash.

        my eldest has said from the start that he want’s to live with me but noone will listen to him and he sometimes cries himself to sleep because he cannot, he also has nightmares that his mother will stop him from seeing me because she has done so in the past on a few occasions, my youngest is starting to state the same and both have refused to get in the car when it’s time to take them home.

        Sorry if this sounds like a rant and I do not want to hijack this thread but merley wanted to point out that it isn’t fair to us fathers that do care as previously pointed out.

        What may be a good idea is that if an absent parent is not allowed to see their children and beleive me there would be more than enough evidence of them trying to do so then the CSA should not be paid to the resident parent thus removing the greed factor. if and absent parent does not want to see their kids they should still pay of course but it just removes anothe ‘weapon’

        My sister ex husband never wanted anything to do with his kids but after a recent ilness he does, he is paying the price now as they do not want anything to do with him.

        parents who do not want their kids are disgraceful but those that do should not be discriminated against.

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  2. Mike · June 20, 2011

    Thank you for voicing this I am one of those fathers who has to fight to see his kids and my ex lies all the time about me to make it look like I do not want my kids people don’t realise that when a resident parent decides that they will use the kids as a means to get at someone by witholding contact how hard it is.

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    • karenwoodall · June 20, 2011

      HI MIke, I know how hard your struggle is, keep going, your kids will understand one day. I entirely agree that fathers who care get lumped together with fathers that don’t, its not right and one day I believe we will look back and realise how much damage we have caused with our policies and practice. Until then, I stand in solidarity with you and all of the other dads in your position. Best wishes Karen

      Like

  3. Debbie Spencer · June 20, 2011

    Thank you for the above, hope David Cameron reads it! My son has been fighting to get proper contact with his three year old son for two years now, his partner decided to break the relationship up and has since done everything she can to stop my son and his family having anything to do with this lovely little boy. Mr. Camerons words show just how ill informed he is, his comments are cruel and hurtful to all of us families estranged from the children we love through no fault of our own.
    Kind regards
    Mrs. Debbie Spencer, sad Nana.

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    • karenwoodall · June 20, 2011

      Debbie, I know how painful it must be to be separated from a grandchild, David Cameron is indeed cruel, I hope that you know that there are people out there who will keep on fighting to stop the pain that you feel. I hope that by the time your grandson is a man, all of this will be behind us. I hope that over the years you get the opportunity to spend the kind of time with your grandson that makes such a difference to their lives, all kids need their grandparents. Kindest regards Karen

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      • Terry Browne · June 21, 2011

        It also must be noted that his timing ; “Fathers Day” is the reason this is so hurtfull. Is he really such a puppet he didn’t realise this would sting ? If he did but went ahead anyway does this demonstrate an aggressive anti-male stance by his government ? Or, a brutaly worrying level of thoughtlessness by the Prime Minister who made his living in PR and now leading the country? There must be corks popping in every UKIP office throughout the land.

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  4. karenwoodall · June 21, 2011

    Terry, I don’t know who is advising him but he got it so badly wrong. I only hope he learns from such a mistake. Best wishes Karen

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  5. Mr BD · June 22, 2011

    Thank you for your excellent article.
    I have been battling in the courts for 4 years in an effort to maintain a close and meaningful relationship with my two sons. I exhibited a body of contemporary scientific evidence to Sir Nicholas Wall in Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, which proves that children fare better, psychologically, developmentally and educationally when both parents are meaningfully involved. It went ignored. Please support the Relocation Campaign. Thankyou Mr BD

    Like

  6. Colby Pele · June 22, 2011

    Hi Karen if you look on David Cameron’s FB wall you will see I have posted this page on there for him 🙂 it was this 🙂

    Colby Pele
    I hope you read this very clear answer to your bull you said on Sunday, you in my opinion don’t deserve to be in politics if you are going to grade all fathers the same, the only kind of person who would say such bigoted and bitter remarks is a selfish money stealing idiot like you!! was you actually voted in?? I don’t think you were! https://karenwoodall.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/david-cameron-you-should-be-ashamed-of-yourself/
    about a minute ago · Like ·

    And his page 🙂 http://www.facebook.com/DavidCameron?sk=wall&filter=1

    Like

  7. Paul Manning. · July 3, 2011

    Dear Karen,
    I agree with every sentence of your wonderful article and I have to say that your words are absolutely true! I have been angered more than I can say by the stupidity of David Cameron’s remarks and his ignorance on the subject of so called “absent runaway fathers”. I have an 8 year old son that I brought up from birth who has been cruely removed from me by my ex and the biased childrens courts here in Sheffield. I have absolute love for my dear son, a son who has made it quite plain that he wishes to see his dad, but to no avail. I live in great emotional pain every day of my life, I shed tears regularly and I am not ashamed to admit it. I am not allowed to know of his education, not even his school reports and any medical conditions. I can’t help wondering, is it the intention of the chidrens courts to break all bonds of love with our kids? it seems to me that this is what is happening, but I just don’t know why, what the hell is going on?!! If you can help me I would be very grateful, I am near to my end with all the debasing of my character and the lies that are fabricated from Cafcass that always seem to side with the mother. I miss my dear son so much it breaks my heart and also his too. Will someone out there please help me? Please! Paul.

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  8. karenwoodall · July 5, 2011

    Dear Paul, I am so sad to hear about what has happened to you, so many fathers are pushed out of their children’s lives by ignorance and the court processes. Please do mail me separately, I cannot give you my direct number here but you can contact me on the contact page and I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can. I can’t promise anything but I am always willing to do whatever I can to help. Kind regards Karen

    Like

  9. Darren Sharrocks · November 29, 2011

    Paul Manning

    I am really sorry you have gone through this. I have and are in the same situation. i had a hell of a battle in Wolverhampton family courts. Its as a nightmare. My ex did not want to look after my 4 year old, she gave him up to his grandparents. I have four other children. So i asked the court to let me have him if she did not want him. They siad no, even though they knew i could look after him ok, still said no , So mum took him back, but i suspet it was a fix. I have had problems with schookl’s one school lied to me and couaght them doing it and they treated my life dirt in the process. I travel 90 miles from Bury to wolverhampton to speak to the schookl, nothing was prepared,, no reports, no work, told the kid were not in school. but they were. They thought was i was going to kidnap them even though they knew i had them in manchester a week. It took month get them to send school reports, even then some pages were missing, I had to send them self address envelppes etc, before they wouild it. I had to complain loads of time, Lawyers letters sent all ignored, complaints to wolverhampton eduation depoartment all ignored. I had the same problem with the oldes boyes school/ I asked to see his teacher to this day, i have never met him, even though I have asked many times. I again made a formal complaint to wolverhampton education department, no reply recieved. Then last ausgust i had a phone call from his school saying how sorry they are. Good news on this one i get regular bulletins and school reports of my boy from them, but still no meetings. I am really sorry your in this situation, the courts and schookls are fallowing the same template. They just want to wear you down so youj give up or go crazy or both. keep in there, your child is worth it

    Like

  10. Gary Faddes · March 23, 2012

    Mother’s day has just gone by and I don’t recall David Cameron giving a speech on that day saying that;

    “It’s high time malicious Mums were stigmatised, and the full force of shame was heaped upon them, they should be looked at like drink-drivers, people who are beyond the pale. They need the message rammed home to them, from every part of our culture, that what they’re doing is wrong – that making false allegations against, alienating children against and denying children contact with, their fathers, who do a heroic job against all odds to fight for their children, simply isn’t acceptable.”

    Like

  11. Bruno D'Itri · June 21, 2012

    Our elected Government plans to bolster the legal right of a child to have a meaningful and on-going relationship with both its parents, post separation/divorce. It recognises that family law, as it currently stands, all too often fails to serve a child’s best interests in this extremely important respect.
    The Children Act (1989) rightly instructed the judiciary to serve the child’s paramount interests. However, the judiciary has singularly failed to understand or accept that a child’s paramount interests are, in the vast majority of cases, actually best served by facilitating and enforcing its meaningful relationship with both its parents. Instead, the judiciary has remained wedded to the archaic ‘single parent’, ‘primary carer’ model; an approach which has, sadly, led to a generation of fatherless children. The judiciary’s approach is out of date and simply does not reflect the modern-day realities of 21st Century shared parenting.
    The aim of our Government’s proposed legislative changes is to make it very explicit to the judiciary that, for most children in litigated cases, ‘best interests’ equates to ‘shared parenting’.
    Let us hope that any amendment to the Children Act (1989) will be robust enough to safeguard a child’s right to be parented by both its parents. Let us also remember that this issue is not about parents’ rights: it is entirely about childrens’ rights.
    Furthermore, let us be absolutely clear that Shared Parenting does NOT, as many critics would have us believe, necessitate a precise 50/50 split of parenting time. This would be highly impractical in most cases. Rather, it is expected to range upwards from 20/80. Another objection from the critics is that it will endanger children. Very plainly, Shared Parenting will only be granted to parents who are not a proven risk to their children. Unsubstantiated allegations made by bitter and disgruntled ex-partners – intent on using ‘their children as weapons’, to coin Sir Nicholas Wall’s expression – should not be enough!
    It is a very great pity that the judiciary has failed to be proactive on Shared Parenting. For example, in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division, was presented with no less than 15 contemporary scientific psychological and sociological research reports which demonstrated, beyond all reasonable doubt, the verifiable benefits for children of maintaining close and meaningful relationships with both parents. This irrefragable scientific evidence went ignored or relegated by him. The Government, to whom the scientific evidence was also sent, is taking full heed. This is precisely why our Government – our elected representatives – needs to legislate. Child welfare is far too important to leave in the hands of a few un-elected High Court judges, who often appear to be out of touch with modern society and family life, and who appear to have little understanding of the importance of scientific evidence.
    Best regards
    Bruno D’Itri

    Like

  12. Bruno D'Itri · January 9, 2013

    When parents separate or divorce, the court automatically seeks to anoint one parent (usually the mother) with the legal status of ‘primary carer/resident parent’. It then bestows upon that parent a grossly disproportionate degree of power and control over the children vis-à-vis the ‘secondary carer/non-resident parent’ (dad).

    In many acrimonious cases an embittered resident parent uses this power to exclude the second parent from the lives of the children. The courts are reluctant to punish this abhorrent behaviour, their rationale being that to punish the primary carer is tantamount to punishing the children. With no deterrence, this behaviour is set to continue.

    Quite naturally, an unjustly excluded parent will employ the very costly (£200 plus per hour) services of solicitors and barristers in a desperate effort to regain contact with his children. Truly obscene sums of money begin to flow from broken families into the coffers of the law firms. The Family Justice Industry feeds upon the love an excluded parent has for his children.

    A presumption of Shared Parenting would permit a loving parent to be fully involved in the parenting of his children, post separation or divorce, without the need for costly and lengthy litigation. In Australia, for example, litigation reduced by circa 30% following the introduction of Shared Parenting legislation. Of course, in those relatively few cases where there is a serious and proven risk of harm, contact can and should be restricted.

    Plainly, a similar reduction of circa 30% in British family court litigation would prove extremely damaging to the Family Justice Industry. It is little wonder, then, that the Law Society is vehemently against a presumption of Shared Parenting. Family lawyers are not saints; we should not naively assume that their leaders would place genuine justice for parents and children ahead of their desire to maintain their income stream.

    The judiciary is no better. Sir Nicholas Wall – the former President of the Family Division – sought to blame parents for “using their children as weapons”, without accepting in the least that it is the System itself which facilitates, encourages and fails to deter such abhorrent behaviour.

    The real scandal is that the Law Society and the judiciary appear to have succeeded in persuading our Government to significantly dilute its original Shared Parenting proposals. There is now a very serious risk that the unsatisfactory status quo is set to continue.

    Shame on the Law Society.
    Shame on the judiciary.
    Shame on the Government.

    Bruno D’Itri

    Like

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