Whilst New Year now seems sometime ago, my wish for a happy, healthy and productive 2015 is not any less sincere.
I was delighted to see that social services was well represented in the New Year Honours and in particular, I was delighted to see my former colleague in Dundee and my successor as President of ADSW, Harriet Dempster receive the OBE in recognition for her services to children. Similarly and recently retired (and I use that word loosely), Anne Houston also deservedly received an OBE for her tireless work championing the rights of children. Professor Bill Whyte from Edinburgh University taught me so much when I first became involved in Criminal Justice Social Work in 1996. His insatiable appetite and enthusiasm for his subject matter and his influence in youth justice cannot be under stated. Well done Bill. Mairi O’Keefe, Chief Executive, Leuchie House, North Berwick was honoured for her outstanding work at this excellent respite resource which came close to closing its doors several years ago when the MS Society decided not to continue running the service. I would recommend that you consider a visit to see just what has been achieved – a resource highly valued by individuals and their families. Congratulations to each of them.
Congratulations also to Aileen Campbell on the safe arrival of baby Crawford. I don’t suppose there is much to choose from between the demands of a new baby and the pressures of Ministerial life!
The early part of January has seen considerable work being undertaken to further shape the new Vision and Strategy for Social Services in Scotland which has continued to develop since the initial draft. The Social Work Services Strategic Forum meets again this week with Fiona McLeod, Minister for Children and Young People, when I hope we will be closer to agreeing the final content and recommendations, with a view to launching on 17 March, World Social Work Day.
The last fortnight has seen an increase in my engagements around Scotland. An informal part of my role, is to know each of the 32 Chief Social Work Officers in Scotland. As you can imagine they are changing rapidly as a result of health and social care integration and subsequent changes to structures and personnel. Meeting with Stephen Brown in North Ayrshire provided an excellent opportunity not only to hear about the particular challenges in North Ayrshire but also to understand how he would be ensuring the quality of social work services within these new structures. I look forward to spending a day visiting North Ayrshire services over the coming months.
It had been many years since I had visited Quarriers Village in Renfrewshire. Much has changed not only with the shape of the organisation but also in personnel and so I met with Alice Drife CEO, Andy Williamson, Deputy CEO and the wider management team. Much has changed over the years with services firmly integrated within the local community. The diversity of the organisation was highlighted in visits to individual tenancies, the fascinating William Quarrier Scottish Epilepsy Centre – a partnership with NHS Scotland and an important part of Quarriers work since 1906.
The excellent and innovative work of Stopover in the south side of Glasgow provided further evidence of how much can be achieved with vulnerable young people with a committed and innovative staff group. Such was my level of my interest that I didn’t make it to the family centre in Ruchazie!
I returned to Glasgow later that week to give the keynote speech at the first conference for final year students and newly qualified social workers at Glasgow Caledonian University. An excellent day which looked at vision, strategy and the potential workforce for the future as well as a range of first class workshops. It was supported by 150 enthusiastic social workers and students, judging by which, the future is in good hands! Hopefully this is the first of many such conferences designed to support and listen to the future of the profession.
Finally, news of the new vision and strategy of social work is spreading, as I welcomed 60 business management students from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands to Victoria Quay, here in Edinburgh. Fresh from a trip to see the Queensferry crossing emerge from the Forth, a highly participative group seemed positive about our approach to social services in Scotland, although they did suggest they were heading to the Royal Mile to sample the delights of the local hostelries. Perhaps not surprising after an hour of vision and strategy!
In two weeks time I hope to update you on progress with the Vision and Strategy, share some findings from the engagement with front line staff events in 2014 as well as plans for the coming year.