by Tanya Tracey
Public Involvement Lead, Fathers Together study
My name is Tanya and I am really pleased to be leading on Public Involvement for the Fathers Together study, which is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), carried out with University College London (UCL) and other universities in partnership with the Race Equality Foundation.
The study aims to explore how to better support young fathers in prisons and their families by identifying their needs and experiences, and using these insights to co-produce a parenting programme (like SFSC) with young fathers, their families and others who work with them. The rationale for this project is to break the intergenerational effects of parental imprisonment and to make young fathers better connected and prepared for family life on release.
As well as being a part of the Fathers Together study, I also work for an amazing charity called Birth Companions where I manage projects for mothers and perinatal women in prison and in the community. I have also recently completed my term as co-chair of the Clean Break board, a theatre company that uses theatre to shine a light on the experiences and injustices of women in contact with the criminal justice system.
With many years of working with men, women, and young people who have been affected by institutions like prison, co-production and sharing power is an important principle of mine, especially in a country where decisions are often made by those who have little experience of what it is like to experience inequality, injustice, and racism. Acknowledging, valuing, and respecting the voices of those who have lived experience is one of my core values and central to the Father’s Together study. This study speaks to my own lived experience and as a woman of colour, I also believe it is necessary to create programmes that speak to the experiences of Black, Asian and other racialised families. Moreover, Black young men are disproportionately over-represented in our youth justice system and with many being fathers, culturally specific programmes should be available and co-produced.
Sadly, prison breaks families apart and those in prison use various coping strategies including difficult decisions about contact and connection with their children. It has been a real pleasure engaging with the group who have bonded with each other, shown empathy, and empower one another. I feel privileged to work alongside fathers who are willing to be vulnerable enough to trust me whilst sharing their stories to support a younger generation.
In the coming months, we have lots of plans underway where the group will help the study team to make sense of some of the findings coming through and be part of shaping the actual parenting programme. The group will also be pivotal in creating a short video clip about the study to share widely. We hope that the study can demonstrate how university researchers, the voluntary sector, and the public/people with lived experience can come together around crucial topics which impact our communities to make a real difference.
To find out more about the Fathers Together study: access the website www.fatherstogether.co.uk, or on Twitter @TogetherFathers.