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The Templehall Dads’ Group

The Templehall Dads’ Group aims to provide meaningful activity for young dads in the Templehall area of Kirkcaldy. The project is largely based around gardening and horticulture. 

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What are the aims and objectives?

The aim of the project is to involve dads from an identified area of deprivation in a meaningful initiative that will encourage them to positively improve their health, wellbeing, employment and educational opportunities. 

Specifically the project wishes to:

  • Work in collaboration with local community partners to take forward a project focused on the needs and aspirations of young dads. 
  • Engage with young dads to develop their confidence and self esteem.
  • To work alongside young dads to identify their expressed health, educational and social needs.
  • Increase the young dads’ core skills and future employability. 

Try to help you to fix it for yourself.”

Who are the participants and the partners?

The project is based in the Templehall area of Kirkcaldy; one of Scotland’s most deprived areas which has a high incidence of teenage pregnancy and thus young parents. The project works with young fathers living in Templehall area. There is no defined age range and the group is open to any dads in the area who express an interest in getting involved. Dads involved in the pilot gardening project ranged in age from 22 to 36 years. Since its inception in September 2010 the project has benefited 25 young dads with a core group of five to six participants who continue to engage.

The Cottage Family Centre is the base for the project. The Centre provides a range of services to local families and focuses on the family unit, working with each member of the family individually and the family as a whole. The work of the Centre is responsive and is care and needs specific. It also provides practical support through group work led by the parents, and works to build the self esteem and confidence of parents and children.

A range of groups for the development of practical skills and for personal development are also held at the Cottage Family Centre including cooking classes, yoga, self defence and first aid, and childcare facilities.

The project is driven by the young fathers and overseen by a multi-agency steering group involving workers in the local area. The project is funded by Equally Well, Fife Council Community Learning and Development, the Jennifer Brown Trust and the Cottage Family Centre.  It is further supported by a local building business in the provision of building and gardening materials and play equipment. 

Why was the project set up? How has the approach changed over time?

Coinciding with increasing interest in young fathers on a national front, a piece of locally led research questioned the support available to young dads locally. The need to develop a local initiative that focused on young fathers was identified by community workers. 

A small scale, short pilot project was developed initially and took place between August and September 2010. The project began with gardening and subsequent learning and training activities were directed by the group’s specific needs.  The project is part of the work of the Equally Well Fife Test Site and has continued to develop over time in response to local need and the wishes and ideas of the dads involved.

“It’s amazing what the dads achieved on a small pot of money and the ideas they came up with.”

What does the project do?

The Templehall Dads’ Group project plan was developed by community partners to engage and support local fathers in improving an outdoor space for children. Gardening related work is the main focus of the project alongside a range of other complementary activities. The dads meet at the Cottage Family Centre three days per week. A male community worker is employed and works alongside staff from the Centre to facilitate gardening activities as well as coordinating input from relevant agencies. 

Establishment of the group saw the dads convert waste ground at the back of the Family Centre into a safe place for children and families to play and spend time together. The project was underway within five weeks, initially with seven dads in the garden, and was completed within six months.  To celebrate the project achievements, an official launch of the garden took place in November 2010 with Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy MP) officially opening the garden to the local community. In recognition of the dads’ commitment and hard work, a plaque was mounted on a wall within the garden. 

Work on a second larger derelict piece of land beside the Family Centre began in February 2011 and was completed in September 2011. Leased from Fife Council for 25 years, the dads have designed a true community garden. The growing area produces vegetables for the Centre, and there are play areas and seating. There has been positive feedback from the community and an offer to lease more land to this project has been made. 

The development of the second garden has had a positive impact on the surrounding houses and wider community with residents starting to tidy up their gardens with the dads helping if needed. Further plans include developing a community growing space (allotments), extending gardening skills, helping elderly people in the area, and establishing a ‘dads-to-be’ group.

Participants work towards achieving a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) qualification, complete a certified first aid course and learn basic cooking and computing skills with funding provided by Equally Well. With the new allotment site, The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) will be delivering SVQ in horticulture training on site to the Dads. Some dads are also involved in parenting sessions at the Centre which their partners and children are also attending. 

“Getting out has improved my family relationships and there’s something for the kids to do. I like coming here.”

In what way is the approach ‘asset based’? 

The project explicitly states on paper that it takes an asset based approach and explains: “the biggest gains… will come from supporting parents – to help them help themselves – and by creating communities which are positive places to grow up”.   

The project is focused on providing meaningful initiatives and activities for young dads which offer opportunities for learning, recognition of their abilities, the building of confidence and self esteem and improvements in physical, social and emotional health for them and their families. The young dads informally discussed their needs in relation to health, education and social issues during the early gardening work which shaped the consequent programme and allowed them to take ownership of the project and its future direction. The project also builds on the existing relationships and trust that families have with the different services in their lives and has helped to build mutually supportive friendships between young men in the area.

For participants, the project has given structure and purpose to their day, showed them that they have talents and can be good parents to their children. Some expressed that the project has had a positive knock-on effect on every aspect of their lives. Involvement in the Group has also enhanced the employment prospects of the young dads involved by developing new and strengthening existing skills, enhancing their CVs, providing volunteering opportunities and building confidence and positive aspirations for them and their families. The young dads are also providing a good role model for their children due to their involvement with the Group. 

The staff engaged with the project have been able to work out with their traditional remits in working ‘with’ the dads. This has enabled them to see the dads as individuals with much to contribute and to support the dads to recognise their potential and abilities both in the development of new skills and within their role as parents. The project has also had a positive impact on the surrounding area and wider community by building community cohesion and improving the outdoor space for the benefit of the local community.

How has success been measured?

Evaluation is integral to the project. Measures have been put in place to capture each of the three outcomes as stated below:

  • Work in collaboration with community partners to facilitate a small project with young dads to inform a future local initiative.
  • Increase the self esteem and confidence of participants.
  • Demonstrate an increase in participants’ educational and social skills. 

Data gathered to profile the fathers is specific to the project aims and planned outcomes. Participant profiles are established at the outset (postcode, age, age of partner, number of children, employment status, whether in education or not) and a range of informal methods are used to capture dads’ thoughts on the project. Photographs of the garden have been taken as it has progressed and the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWEBS) was used pre and post pilot to look at the mental wellbeing of the dads. 

What are the strengths and challenges? 

Of the 25 dads engaged with the project to date a number have moved into employment or education. Others went “back to life with much better attitudes” following support from the wider Family Centre and project. A small number have had onward referrals to other support agencies. The dads reported an overall improvement in their wellbeing. Some dads reported feeling happier within their own family and improved family relationships, both between the parents and between the parents and children.  One dad described the project as “life changing”.   

The development and creation of the new garden was led by the Dads’ Group. The participants made the decisions on what the garden would look like and how the work would be undertaken. Flexibility as to how the garden was developed was integral to the approach and was led by the development of group ideas and joint working. New dads joining the group are supported / mentored by the dads who are existing members.

The forward thinking nature of the project, effective partnership working and information sharing have allowed the project to be a success. The local community, statutory and voluntary agencies, local businesses and fathers have been able to work together to address a local need. The trusted workers facilitating the activities and providing general support are pivotal in keeping the group working together effectively.

On the other hand, the ongoing need for funding means the Group is continually ”fighting for survival”. Project sustainability is a challenge due to the economic downturn and associated local authority cutbacks. The complexity of the welfare system and the benefits arena were also highlighted as many of the young dads have experienced difficulties with their benefits payments due to their involvement with the project.

At times, slow progress (related to funding issues) has made it difficult to sustain interest and motivation from the dads as the drive and commitment of the dads is crucial for success of the project.

Although a number of challenges were identified, the dads involved with the project were keen to emphasise the overwhelming positive nature and importance of the Dads’ Group. 

“The dads achieved so much out of something so simple – not just a physical achievement but a personal journey.”

From a personal perspective, the staff and partners of the project expressed pride in what the young dads had achieved, the personal journey each of them had taken and the positive impact this had had on their families. 

Participants spoke of their increased confidence and the new skills they have developed as well as their own pride in seeing their ideas and hard work come to life. The project has been able to give participants something constructive to do and to gain a new outlook on life.  The Dads’ Group has also facilitated interaction between people in similar circumstances and has improved family relationships.  

Relevant links to other parts of the Understanding Glasgow site:  children’s lifestyle, economic participation, education, social capital and Understanding Glasgow film series: Young Mums