Dundee featured strongly in my engagements during the past fortnight. The recognition of social work staff through the Annual Awards Ceremony was the sixteenth successful year, where staff have been recognised for gaining nationally recognised qualifications. The ceremony held in the superb Gardyne Theatre provided me with the opportunity to return as guest speaker and to share the platform for the final time with the retiring Chief Executive David Dorward and Director of Social Work Jenni Tocher, who will retire next March when restructuring will take place. More than 300 staff achieved nationally recognised qualifications during the past year – both a measure of commitment to learning and development in Dundee as well as a tribute to many individuals who, often through personal sacrifice achieved so much.
Being a Director of Social Work can be at times a daunting and somewhat lonely position but made much easier by a Chief Executive of David Dorward’s calibre. I was therefore delighted to attend a dinner in David’s honour given by Lord Provost Bob Duncan. David was a Chief Executive of considerable integrity and a people person who worked tirelessly to make Dundee a better place for it’s citizens. He was approachable, a great supporter of social work and the founder of the award winning Champions Board,led by looked after young people who held senior officers and elected members to account in their role as corporate parents. Believe me we were held to account!
The Awards Ceremony was followed by visits to social work resources which were undergoing redevelopment when I left the department in March 2013. The McKinnon Centre is a day and respite resource for adults with physical disabilities which has under gone a significant modernisation programme. It is a magnificent centre managed by Jackie Morrison and achieving high standards through recent a Care Inspectorate report. It was a pleasure to meet up with old friends including meeting Alwyn James, a talented musician who recently finished his 5th album ‘Unfinished Business’. Amongst other resources the centre has a music studio providing a range of opportunities for individuals and groups develop their creative talents.
Weavers Burn is a unique resource for adults with complex needs and challenging behaviour. This new build provides supported independence in a safe and secure environment where the emphasis is on meeting the needs of each of the individuals within their own tendencies. My final visit was to meet some of the highly committed young people whose looked after experience is benefiting other young people in the city through the work of the Champions Board. Their new drop in facility has created a neutral environment for similar young people to meet and find the peer support so vital as part of the care experience. It was also a chance to met up again with Dundee’s citizen of the year Andrew Lorimer who has played a significant part in the success of the Board.
My Dundee week concluded with a presentation to 200 students at the University of Dundee as part of their student conference. They are the future of the profession and it is therefore vital to influence and support each one of them towards the highest professional standards. Meeting with staff from the University was not just about renewing old acquaintances from Dundee City Council days but working together to help shape the future of social work!
The Scottish Care at Home Conference and awards dinner is a highlight for staff working in the independent sector. It is an evening celebrating excellent practice with great support and enthusiasm from across the sector and led by Scottish Care Chief Executive the irrepressible Ranald Mair and popular compare Michelle McManus who controlled the 600 audience with humour and skill. Highlight of the evening was the presentation to the Volunteer of the Year 89 year old Archie Potts who looks after the gardens of Claremont House for the benefit of residents. It was a standing ovation all round. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists who were enthusiastically supported by their colleagues from across Scotland.
If you haven’t heard of Imagining the Future (ITF) then head to the website at http://content.iriss.org.uk/2025/
ITF sets out 4 scenarios of the what the based on what Scotland’s social and political landscape might look like in 2025 and what workforce might be required in social services. The work commissioned by the Institute for Innovation and Research in Social Services (IRISS) was undertaken by Robert Rae. It is a piece of work which has involved around 700 individuals both from within and outwith social services. Significantly, critical contributions were made by the community of Govan during a series of events in June of this year. Please take the opportunity to review the material which is already attracting the interest of several local authorities – a first class workforce planning tool. Rob Rae can be contacted through IRISS should you wish to discuss ITF further.
The leadership of some of Scotland’s biggest 3rd sector children’s charities has undergone considerable change in recent times. Aberlour has been one of those and therefore to meet with new Chief Executive Sally Anne Kelly and her management team provided a valuable opportunity to hear of Aberlour’s plans in a rapidly changing environment. Discussions were also enhanced by a visit to Aberlour’s Family Support Service in Glasgow. It is a service which, in a residential setting, supports women and their children where substance misuse has played a significant part in their lives. Parenting skills, stability and independence are all features of this 2 year old project which is taking referrals from across Scotland. Sincere thanks go to the residents not only for making an excellent lunch but for their openness in sharing their experiences with me. Interesting to note a significant drop in offending rates as a result of the support given at the centre.
This is the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Kilbrandon Report. A landmark report which has truly stood the test of time through the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 and of course the Children’s Hearing system. Lord Hope provided a very thoughtful reflection on the work of a man whose thinking was ahead of it’s time. He described the genius of Lord Kilbrandon still living on with “the lamp shining as brightly now as it ever did”.
Finally, I made a presentation to COSLA’s Health and Wellbeing Committee on the draft Vision and Strategy for Social Services in Scotland. So in a fortnight, reflecting on the past through the work of Kilbrandon to a trip back to Dundee to celebrate success, but critically we must use the past to help guide us towards a stronger and brighter future.