Journal Article

User Empowerment or Family Self-Reliance? The Family Group Conference Model


in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 28, issue 1, pages 107-128
Published in print February 1998 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online February 1998 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
User Empowerment or Family Self-Reliance? The Family Group Conference Model

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Towards the end of the 1980s, the concept of ‘user’ empowerment emerged as a central idea in debates about the organization and delivery of health and social care services. Politically attractive to left and right, the concept contains both ‘liberatory and regulatory’ implications (Baistow, 1994/5). While offering the possibility of greater control and self-determination, it may also involve expectations about increased self-reliance and individual responsibility. Although not inherently contradictory, these different objectives may prove difficult to reconcile if the promotion of self-reliance is primarily driven by a concern to reduce the provision of state services.

This paper sets out to explore the issue of empowerment in the context of the new Family Group Conference (FGC) initiative. Originating in New Zealand (NZ), the FGC model explicitly aims to shift the balance of power between families and professionals within the child-care dicision-making process. Political interest in the model, however, may also be generated by its perceived potential for reducing the dependency of families on state-provided services. Drawing on research from NZ and the UK, the paper examines the quality of empowerment provided by the FGC model from the perspectives of the families involved and sets out to assess the particular balance that obtains within the model between the different and potentially contradictory objectives of promoting user empowerment and encouraging family self-reliance.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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