Introducing my Fortnightly Blog

This is the first of a series of fortnightly bulletins, which I hope you will find of interest. This regular communication has a number of purposes:
• To help you understand more about my role as Chief Social Work Adviser ( CSWA ) to the Scottish Government.
• To share some of my experiences over the previous fortnight including visits and comment on what is happening across the sector.
• To promote the strengths of the Social Services sector in a socially just Scotland.
• Begin to have a conversation about how Social Services sector can enhance its professionalism through a new vision and strategy.

It is eighteen months since I became CSWA, initially on a two year secondment from Dundee City Council where I had been Director of Social Work since 2001. Moving to Scottish Government provided an excellent opportunity to use my 34 years post qualifying experience to advise Ministers on key matters affecting Social Services and importantly to influence and develop the sector at a time of enormous change including acute financial challenges, public service reform as well as significant policy and legislative change. Therefore in my view, the importance of a competent, skilled and knowledgeable workforce has never been more important in order to support the changing needs of Scotland`s citizens. Moreover the largest workforce in the public sector not only has to recognise the need to for change but to help shape its future.

To help make the necessary progress, Scottish Government established a national Social Work Services Strategic Forum (SWSSF) in November last year chaired by the Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell. Ms Campbell`s portfolio also includes the social services workforce. Members of the Forum include representatives from Scottish Government, Scottish Association of Social Workers, Trade Unions, Universities, Care Inspectorate, SSSC and Social Work Scotland (formerly Association of Directors of Social Work). The principle tasks of the group were to establish a vision and strategy for the sector. Work is being developed under four key headings;
• Workforce
• Performance
• Evidence
• Promoting Public Understanding

We have collectively produced a draft Vision and Strategy which Forum members will be sharing across their networks to get feedback from practitioners at all levels. I will also be using the coming weeks to discuss the Strategy and hope that between now and Christmas you will hear more of the important work the Forum has been undertaking.

I hope that discussions can begin on the key actions necessary to further strengthen the profession in Scotland, from Chief Social Work Officers to Managers, Social Workers and Social Care Officers. Critically my role as CSWA extends across the statutory, voluntary and private sectors in Scotland. Each as important as the other in the delivery of high quality services.

To understand the landscape of Social Services in Scotland, a significant amount of my time is spent visiting many services in Scotland from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders to the Western Isles. Talking to front line staff, understanding some of the enormous challenges facing the various communities in Scotland. Undoubtedly there are considerable challenges for Social Service staff across the country but I consistently hear highly motivated voices who are fully committed to working with individuals, families and communities in order to bring about positive change. Ministers have also taken time to listen to the views of staff in a series of front line engagement events, the most recent of which took place in Aberdeenshire at the start of October when the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Mike Russell, met with 25 staff to listen to the challenges faced by staff in Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray. Each of the six events provided rich information which will inform the work of the Social Work Services Strategic Forum.

Highlights over the past two weeks included a day with Action for Children in Glasgow discussing the challenges for the 3rd sector and visits to a respite centre for children with disabilities and the Side Step project diverting young people away from organised crime – a project with great potential and inspiring leadership! This week the Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser got down and dirty, weeding and planting bulbs at Robin House, Balloch. One of two hospices run by the Children`s Hospice Association Scotland, it is a place of hope and optimism, which relies on volunteering. We gained enormously from the experience and in between the home made baking there are a few less weeds as a result of our efforts!

photo CHAS

In the coming fortnight I will be talking to front line practitioners from the independent sector, visiting Crossreach services in Aberdeenshire with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, visiting South Ayrshire Council and Quarriers and talking vision and strategy with social work academics. So lots to talk about in two weeks time.