Labour MP urges family-state pact

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

A LEADING Labour MP has delivered a scathing attack on Labour's traditional 'top-down' approach to welfare, saying the last Labour government created an 'excessively statist, faded and jaded project, over-dependent on paternalistic, bureaucratic and over-professionalised mechanisms'.

Malcolm Wicks, MP for Croydon North West and a former director of the influential Family Policy Studies Centre, calls in a Fabian Society discussion paper, The Active Society: Defending Welfare, published today, for a move towards partnership between citizens and families and the state.

Mr Wicks writes: 'Social policies for the responsible society, far from representing a rather soft, top-down do-goodery, are about fostering a mature, even tough-minded relationship between the citizen and the state.'

A radical Labour government should recognise the need for partnership between the family and the state as the practical means of recognising and realising a humane balance between the rights and responsibility of the citizen.

The paper argues that a modern system of home and family-based welfare provision would save the state pounds 30bn a year. And it defends universal benefits such as child benefit as a more successful and economically efficient way of targeting poverty than means-testing.

The pamphlet makes a pre-emptive attempt to influence future policies in advance of a report to be published later this month by the Social Justice Commission, set up by John Smith to propose social and economic policies for the future.

The Active Society: Defending Welfare; Fabian Society, 11 Dartmouth Street, London, SW1H 9BN; pounds 10.