Women's lobbyist to campaign for fathers

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's most prominent champions of sex equality and women's rights is to take up the leadership of a pressure group for fathers.

One of Britain's most prominent champions of sex equality and women's rights is to take up the leadership of a pressure group for fathers.

Julie Mellor, who heads the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), will announce at a conference on fatherhood this week that she will chair Fathers Direct.

Fathers Direct was formed by a group of parents in 1999 and campaigns for more "father-friendly" services and better leave entitlements for men with children.

Ms Mellor's appointment is expected to put parenting and equality at the heart of the general election campaign.

Ms Mellor, who advises the Government on equality issues, criticised political parties for not offering a "reasonable" increase in state paternity pay and accused them of being "out of touch".

In a statement she said: "In reality, whichever party wins the general election, the danger is that fathers will continue to be pushed into the role of breadwinners and mothers will largely be left holding the baby.

"By framing the caring role as that of mothers only, political parties are damaging opportunities for women outside the home and for men in the home. Such social engineering prevents parents from making their own choices as to what is best for their children."

Ministers have tried to introduce more family-friendly policies, including an increase in maternity leave.

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