Labour has promoted an “authoritarian social work model” at the
expense of long-term family support, according to a Liberal
Democrat policy paper.
The consultation document, launched at the party’s annual
conference in Blackpool this week, highlights the importance of
social work in supporting excluded families.
But it says: “The Labour government has favoured an authoritarian
social work model over a family support model, and has failed to
facilitate a change in culture in statutory social work, from
crisis management to long-term investment.”
The paper is also highly critical of the care system, suggesting
care plans should be subject to regular external review, possibly
by judges, to ensure their adequacy.
It suggests the protocol for resolving care cases within 40 weeks
is unduly rigid and that legal aid should be expanded to introduce
greater legal expertise into the public law system.
The paper claims the private side of family law is too
parent-oriented and that the child’s voice is “seldom heard” in
contact and residence cases, despite the efforts of the Children
and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.
It also cites the adversarial nature of the system that can prevent
dispute resolution, and suggests hearings should be more judge-led
The paper makes the case for state support for parents to stay at
home to care for one- and two-year-old children, for whom publicly
funded provision is lacking.
And it suggests resources tied up in means-tested family support,
such as tax credits, should be shifted to universal child
The paper will be out to consultation until the end of next month.