2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
Switchboard 020 7035 4848 Fax: 020 7035 4745 Textphone: 020 7035 4742
Mr Glen Poole
Dear Mr Poole,
Thank you for your e-mail of 18 November 2011 about the issues faced by men and boys. Your letter has been passed to me for a reply and I am very sorry for the delay in doing so.
The Government is committed to equal treatment and equality of opportunity for all and to addressing existing inequalities for both men and women, wherever they are found. For example, statistics show a lack of women in key decision-making roles, for example, as you mentioned in your letter, the majority of MPs are men. There are 144 women MPs out of 650 MPs (22.2%) and only 155 out of 1, 092 board directorships of FTSE 100 companies are women. The Government is taking action to address these issues and is equally committed to taking action to address the needs of men and boys where the evidence shows inequalities exist and we work closely with organisations representing men on these issues.
As you mention in your letter health is one example where inequalities exist and the Government is taking action to address this. The Men’s Health Forum (MHF) is one of the Department of Health’s strategic partners and was set up to provide an independent and authoritative voice for male health. It aims to tackle the issues and inequalities affecting the health and well-being of boys and men to provide them with an equal opportunity to attain the highest possible level of health. Last year the MHF was commissioned to look at why there was a lower awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer amongst men and a lower uptake of screening. The results of this work are now being considered to assess what more can be done to make these services work better for men.
Further, the Government recognises that overall men have more than three times the rate of suicide of women. To address this, we have consulted on a new suicide prevention strategy for England, in which adult men under 50 are identified as a key group at heightened risk of suicide. We are currently considering all the responses received to the consultation and expect to publish the final strategy early in 2012.
On educational attainment, the Government recognises that there are gender disparities in some subjects including English and science. To improve boys’ attainment in English, the Government is putting a renewed emphasis on the acquisition of literacy skills and an enjoyment of reading from the earliest stages. We are committed to ensuring high quality teaching of systematic synthetic phonics in primary schools and Ministers announced last year a new phonics screening test for all children in Year 1 (aged six years) to enable schools to quickly identify where boys or girls are falling behind.
You also mention the Criminal Justice system. The Government approach to tackling anti-social behaviour and crime focuses on improving the effectiveness of sentencing to create meaningful sanctions, addressing the risk factors that can lead to offending and strengthening community engagement. The Government will reform and support the police and the criminal justice system, schools and the welfare system to give young people the chance of a better life.
In addition, the Government values the role of dads, understanding that fathers want to be more actively involved in bringing up their children and that more and more men are doing so. That is why we are supporting the Fatherhood Institute work to strengthen the effectiveness of statutory and voluntary sector children’s service providers in engaging with fathers. This will also support parental/couple relationships through the transition to parenthood, and following separation/divorce. We are committed to providing advice and support through 11 online and telephone services covering all aspects of family life, including the DadTalk service, which gives fathers advice on a wide range of issues. DadTalk is aimed at anyone in a fathering role but particularly those who may need advice and support, such as fathers who are non-resident or in relationship breakdown and the fathers of teenagers.
Finally, the Equality Act 2010 is one of the most comprehensive equality laws in the world. Broadly, the protections it provides apply just as much to men as women. The measures in the Act can be used to address unfairness against men and boys. For example the positive action provisions allow employers to target measures to help men in circumstances where they are underrepresented in the workforce (in a primary school, for example) or where they are suffering disadvantage connected with being a man.