A trip to the University of Stirling is always challenging if only because of the difficulty of locating buildings and rooms. It hasn`t become any easier over the years and a couple of weeks ago was no exception. It was however more than made up for by friendly and helpful security personnel and a most engaging group of social work lecturers!
My purpose – yes you guessed, to discuss the emerging vision and strategy for social services in Scotland and the link to the review of the social work degree which is fast approaching its conclusion. Both the review and strategy provide a tremendous opportunity to connect the student experience with that critical first year in practice and beyond. That first year can prove to be so vital in ensuring social workers either go on to have positive and rewarding careers or decide all too quickly that their future lies away from the profession! The session with university staff was most supportive and continues to confirm how important the work of the forum will be in building greater professional cohesion.
The visit linked beautifully (at least for the purposes of this blog) to the meeting of the Social Work Services Strategic Forum the following day and chaired by the Minister for Children and Families, Fiona McLeod, MSP. Considerable progress had been made between the previous meeting and this one, with a document significantly stronger in its content, shape and actions which is now closer to the final version. It seems entirely appropriate to launch the vision and strategy on 17 March – World Social Work Day at The Hub in Edinburgh. Invitations will go out through the forum members but I am hopeful the event will not only see representatives from across the sectors but also importantly from front line staff.
You would be forgiven for thinking the forum is only about the strategy, however last week members discussed a report on the engagement events held last year with front line staff. Both the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning and the Minister for Children and Young People have indicated their support to similar events during the course of 2015. When dates have been confirmed I will let you know.
One of the great privileges of my role as Chief Social Work Adviser is the opportunity to see and hear about the inspiring work of individuals and teams across Scotland as well as participating in judging panels. I am appreciative of the invitation from Trisha Hall and Scottish Association of Social Workers ( SASW ) to join their judging panel for this year`s awards. All will be revealed on ………yes you guessed it – 17 March!
The Coalition of Care and Support Providers Scotland are represented by their Chief Executive, Annie Gunner Logan and is one of the member organisations that I spoke to about the potential for establishing a strategic forum. It was therefore a pleasure to go back and speak with the members on the children`s committee about progress made and the potential benefits to 3rd sector colleagues. Understandably, there remain concerns about the impact of current commissioning arrangements on the sector. Whilst I don`t pretend to have all of the answers, progress does need to be made. One thing is for sure, we will continue to require an innovative and skilled third sector on which many children and their families depend.
On Friday past, I attended a visit by the Permanent Secretary, Sir Peter Housden to the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS). Alison Petch is the Director with the Board currently chaired by Peter MacLeod, Director of Social Work, Renfrewshire Council. Sir Peter heard presentations from Lisa Pattoni, Vivien Moffat and Ian Watson on key elements of their current work including:
- The Big Idea: co-design, asset approaches and user- driven innovation
- Digital Participation Strategy
- Prevention: social isolation and loneliness amongst older people.
We are very fortunate to have such talented people working in IRISS who the social services community and beyond can learn a great deal from! Evidence informed practice at its best!
Finally, this week I received confirmation that I will be remaining as Chief Social Work Adviser to Scottish Government for a further two years. The last two years has been a tremendous opportunity to use some of my experience at a national level. I continue to be humbled and inspired by the work that goes on day after day across Scotland but there is so much more to be done and I hope to play my part over the coming two years. I am most appreciative of the support given to me by Scottish Government and Dundee City Council.