Forgotten Fathers and Troubled Teenagers: Working with Men marks 10th anniversary

Award-winning charity Working With Men (WWM), which focuses on improving the life quality and chances of disadvantaged and marginalised boys and young men, is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a special event at the House of Commons on 21 July 2014.


At this event the charity will showcase its successful Uncut conflict resolution programme (funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Realising Ambition initiative), unveil its strategy to politicians and experts in the field, and celebrate those who have contributed towards positive male activity, engagement and involvement.

“In this crucial time before the general election we need to show politicians what we have learned in the last decade about how to target marginalised young men and make them feel they have a stake in society,” says Shane Ryan, Chief Executive of WWM, which is based in Bermondsey, south-east London. The House of Commons event is part of a busy anniversary year for the charity as it develops its core three-pronged strategy, works on a ‘Manifesto for Men’ for the 2015 General Election, develops a robust evidence based programme to reduce offending amongst boys, and links up with Football Organisations to develop a programme for dealing with those convicted of racist offences in a new way.

WWM was originally a research organisation producing a specialist journal on the problems faced by marginalised boys and young men for subscribers. But in 2004 it changed direction and became a charity dealing directly with those facing problems stemming from early fatherhood, exclusion from school and lack of employment or opportunities.

“Our vision is that all boys and men can be productive and active members of society and that organisations should work in ways that include and support boys and men, particularly those who are socially or economically disadvantaged or excluded,” says Ryan, who has been Chief Executive since 2011.

WWM’s core three-point strategy will be developed and expanded over the next three years. It consists of:

  • Fathers’ Development. A generation of fathers from disadvantaged urban backgrounds, whose needs are not addressed by the system and who are too inexperienced to deal with the complex problems they suddenly face, are in need of help.  Many (some as young as 13) are still at school, others are unemployed and some have been rejected by their families. WWM is providing them with advice on parenting skills and teaches them to navigate a complex array of difficult life circumstances. In 2013-14 it has helped more than 3,000 people and, over several years, more than 1,000 young men have attended its Expectant Fathers Programme.
  • Conflict and Transition. This teaches young people to look at the way they approach conflict and encourages them to find strategies to prevent, resolve or at least manage potential conflict situations. It particularly aims to make boys aware of alternatives to violent means. “They need to be able to negotiate, save face and get at least some of what they want,” says Ryan. In 2013-14, 1183 youngsters used this service of whom 74% had either been excluded from school or were at risk of this happening, while 27% per cent were aged under 10.  Working With Men’s “Uncut” intervention programme, for boys aged 10-14 years old, is one of just 25 out of 250 chosen for funding as part of the Realising Ambition programme – a UK-wide Big Lottery Fund initiative delivered by a Consortium led by Catch22. The consortium partners are The Social Research Unit, Substance and the Young Foundation. “Uncut” aims to increase commitment at school, reduce aggression and misbehaviour, and improve peer relationships.
  • Education, Employment and Training. During 2013-14 almost 500 boys and young men aged 13-25 who were not in work or in any form of education or training were helped by WWM. Many were engaged in anti-social behaviour and some in criminal activity. WWM exceeded its target for supporting young men into work or training and some who took part in the scheme earlier on have now been in work for more than two years.

Working With Men has been building a strong evidence base from its work in conflict resolution,supported by the Realising Ambition initiative, and is being considered for a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) by the Social Research Unit for its “Uncut” Conflict Resolution programme. The charity has identified a role in delivering evidence-based fathers’ services in the future and ensuring that the communities most in need are well placed to benefit through its work.  It is coming to the end of an academic study, funded by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, following 26 fathers over three years in Islington, London. The aim of the study is to gain the following insights:

·         The importance of fathers to their children’s development;

·         An understanding of what motivates fathers to use services;

·         An understanding of what issues and concerns fathers have;

·         Practical methods to target and engage fathers;

·         What implications the involvement of fathers will have on children’s services.

WWM is working on a ‘Manifesto for Men’ to be published just before the 2015 General Election and has linked up with national soccer organisations to try to develop a programme for dealing with those convicted of racism offences in a completely new way. “This programme has been developed over 6 years and has been academically evaluated,” says Ryan. “Zero tolerance of racism on its own is not effective”.

“Few other organisations cater for these problems with boys and young men,” says Ryan. “Often they are a forgotten breed who fall into the gaps in the system. There are a lot of social problems that we have identified and on which we are working to provide sustainable long term solutions. If we can promote better life chances for them then this has a knock-on effect – for example better fathers result in better families.”

This video was specially made to mark 10 years of Working With Men, a charity.Working With Men focuses on boys and men, recognising that “everyone assumes that young men will be ok. What we’re finding increasingly is that they’re not.”  The charity focuses on helping re-frame what it means to be a man and a father.