The Home Office minister Paul Boateng said people with experience of parenting would be taken on as part of a pounds 30m package to help primary school children at risk of becoming involved in crime. The trained parents could include health workers, teachers and members of voluntary organisations.
He said that the success of the scheme depended on the co-operation of the children's real parents and that some families regarded contact with social services as a "stigma".
Mr Boateng said: "I make no bones about it, the notion that social workers are the repository of all wisdom and knowledge in parenting is not a notion with which this Government has much truck."
John Buttle, of the British Association of Social Workers, said: "A lot of people in the profession are very fed up with Mr Boateng and his attitude. It is so negative and unreasonable, it is not true."
Rob Hutchinson, who chairs the children and families committee of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said that social services chiefs were "entirely comfortable" with the idea of other professionals giving some support to parents, but warned that "proper checks" were essential if such a scheme were to work. Mr Boateng said he believed that "progressive" social workers would not see trained parents as a threat but would "embrace" the idea, which has shown to be effective in the United States in reducing behavioural problems among young children. He said: "What works is involving properly trained parents. We know that some outdated, outmoded approaches to which some social workers are wedded have failed in the past."
The trained parents would offer support to children and their parents. Mr Boateng said the schemes were designed to be supportive and not judgemental of the child's parents.
The Government will set up between 20 and 40 pilot projects across the country next year. Some projects will involve approaches to turning youngsters away from criminal activity, by for example involving health workers who would make visits to the homes of children identified as being at risk of involvement in crime.Reuse content