Image credit: Nottingham Forest Community Trust

Young dads are set to get support from a new scheme devised by Nottingham Forest Community Trust.

The Off The Bench campaign aims to help new or expecting fathers play a bigger role in their children’s lives, by settling their nerves and teaching simple parenting skills.

Rachel Whysall, Head of Performance at Nottingham Forest Community Trust, says dads can find it difficult to work out their role within the family.

She said: “Although dads are excited when the child is born, in the first initial months its often down to mum and dads can feel isolated.

“We wanted to do a programme with regards to inviting dads into a child’s life early on.”

Off The Bench will be run with Small Steps Big Changes, a £45 million National Lottery funded scheme that hopes to give children and babies in Nottingham a good start in life.

They focus on communities within the NG7 area, such as Arboretum, Aspley, Bulwell, and St Anns – where Off the Bench will also work.

“The demographic is about low income and absent fathers even,” says Rachel.

“It’s just about making sure there’s that relationship.”

Rachel, 38, says fatherhood hides an extra challenge for younger men, who might not have much life experience themselves, but stresses there are simple steps that dads can take to become better parents.

“We don’t want to make this complicated, we want a relaxed atmosphere to tell dads that it’s quite easy to have that relationship and have fun and play games and gain skills with your child.

“And it can be really cheap as well,” she adds.

“You don’t have to take them to places that cost a fortune – you can do things like den making, everyone has a blanket or sheets that they can use.”

Though the organisers have struggled to get people on board so far, they hope the link to Nottingham Forest football club will help get fans involved.

Though young men don’t want to go to the GP or anti-natal classes, the scheme hopes its welcoming and light-hearted atmosphere will draw them in.

For Rachel, Off The Bench is about telling every dad – whether they’re young, have been absent, or are just nervous – that they have an important role in their child’s upbringing.

She says: “Just because you are not living in the family home doesn’t mean that there’s not a place for you.”