The Government has backtracked on plans to force single mothers to name the father of their baby on birth certificates, under new plans announced by the Children’s Minister.
Mothers will now be able to say they do not know who the father is or where he is, under the draft rules for the new birth registration system.
A proposal to make men take a paternity test to clarify if they are the father of a baby has also been abandoned by the Government.
Fathers will take a paternity test only if “both individuals concerned” agree to it under the draft regulations made public by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) yesterday.
Critics fear the rules will allow fathers to shy away from financial responsibility of their children by replacing them with the state welfare system.
Under current arrangements unmarried mothers can choose whether or not to register the name of a baby’s father on their birth certificate.
But in March the Government announced a proposal to make a mother include the father on the baby’s birth certificate to encourage men to take responsibility for their children.
Eight months down the line however, the Government has reversed its decision.
Children’s Minister, Dawn Primarolo, said: “We want to promote parental responsibility from the very beginning by requiring both parents to register in this way.”
But added that exemptions will mean a mother will not have to name the father where “it is not possible, practical or advisable to have this direct link to the father”.
Jill Kirby, of the think-tank Centre for Policy Studies, warned: “The loopholes allow the welfare state to go on as the provider for children as before.”
The original proposal, which the Government backtracked on, would have given fathers the right to make a formal declaration stating they were the parent if the mother left them off the certificate.
This would have given the man official parental control and could only have been overturned in the event of a court battle.
When the measures were announced last year, James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary at the time, said the Government wanted to “support children whose parents’ relationship has broken down”.
He added: “We will bring forward legislation so that it becomes the default option for both parents to register the birth of their child whether they are married or not.”
In April new regulations came into force to allow anyone, regardless of their relationship to the child or their sex, to be named as the second parent on the birth certificate of children born by IVF.
This policy move was designed to meet the demands of lesbian couples.
The head of the Centre for Social Justice think-tank, Iain Duncan Smith, a leading spokesman on marriage and the family said the new law was in danger of “airbrushing” out fathers.
He said in response to the new measures regarding IVF: “Teenage pregnancy is on the increase, abortion is on the increase, family breakdown is at record levels and we have got a growing number of dysfunctional children that are the product of broken homes.
“The lesson seems to be loud and clear to me that fathers are required.”