Tuesday March 17 was World Social Work Day, an appropriate time to launch Scotland’s new Vision and Strategy for Social Services in Scotland. It is paper which at it’s heart has been created by the sector for the sector to further professionalise the workforce in order to improve the outcomes for those who depend on services.
In coming into the post of Chief Social Work Adviser, I believed that there was an opportunity to bring the sector together and notwithstanding the challenges local authorities, third and independent sectors faced, all believed in the need for a strong and dynamic workforce whose skills, knowledge and experience make such a positive difference to the lives of so many of Scotland’s citizens. However the questions we asked of each other were – Are services good enough? Is the quality consistent enough across sectors and across the country? Stakeholders agreed there was more to be done and have contributed their experience as members of the Social Work Services Strategic Forum.
The Forum chaired by Ministers, Aileen Campbell and Fiona McLeod have met quarterly since November 2013 and will continue to meet in order to track the progress of the implementation plan. Importantly the work of the Forum had two features which distinguished it from Changing Lives published in 2006; firstly it was born not out of a crisis, but a collective desire to continuously improve the quality of services. Secondly the profession itself worked together to identify a new vision and direction for Scotland. I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of social services in Scotland!
‘Our vision is a socially just Scotland with excellent social services delivered by a skilled and valued workforce which works with others to empower, support and protect people, with a focus on prevention, early intervention and enablement’
The vision comes at a time when increasing concerns were being expressed about the weakening or fragmentation of social services as a result of the considerable legislative and policy changes affecting many of the 190,000 workforce in Scotland. The sector must believe in its own abilities and influence change regardless of which structures are in place. Leadership of the sector and in particular the role of the Chief Social Work Officer in each local authority will be vital as social services faces up to the challenges of integration,self directed support, community justice redesign and the requirements of the new Children and Young People’s Act.
Effective leadership will also be an essential component of the implementation plan which will take forward the actions attached to the vision and strategy. These actions are based around four key areas which stakeholders believe further action is necessary. These are
- Supporting the workforce
- Understanding service quality and performance
- Improving use of evidence
- Promoting public understanding
Details of the actions attached to each of the four strands can be found in the link to the strategy. The Launch event itself was a great success and I must extend my thanks to all who participated, in particular, the young people from Who?Cares Scotland who put on an impressive and moving presentation of their experiences. Kieran, below demonstrated impressive presentation skills for someone new to appearing on a podium.
It is important to set out the importance of each of the Strategy’s strands and potential links to strengthening the sector. Pictured below are the strand leads taking part in a short Q&A session as part of the launch.
Supporting the workforce led by Anna Fowlie – SSSC
Work on this area will be complementary to the work already undertaken by Scottish Social Services Council. It is easy to forget that the social services workforce is one of the largest employment groups in Scotland. The sector requires to be confident, dedicated and skilled. They need to feel valued by their employees and need to give the public confidence in their skills and knowledge base. It is therefore essential the sector recruits, inducts and develops staff through clearer career pathways, retaining some of the most experienced staff on the front line and equip staff for their current and future careers. Proposed actions include;
- commissioning work to better understand recruitment and retentionexplore the benefits of
- strengthening and improving the mandatory structured framework for newly qualified social workers
- review current guidance and approaches to value based recruitment
- commission work to update induction guidance and consider a multi professional induction “passport”
Understanding service quality and performance led by Robert Peat – Care Inspectorate
One of the early questions I was asked when I moved to Scottish Government was; As a Director of Social Work how did you know how well your services are performing?
The question is a fair one particularly as Scotland has increasingly moved away from the traditional social work departments to a variety of different structures in which social work functions are likely to to be split. What this strand’s action’s seek to do is to help workers, decision makers and the public to have an easier understanding of how services are performing and how they could be improved. It is about making better use of data which already exists to inform and improve practice at a local level. Proposed actions include;
- developing an annual summary report which collates key social services statistics
- undertaking practitioner events to engage staff on what is working well and what can be improved
- develop a summary of qualitative evidence from a range of sources including CSWO reports to give an overview of performance across the sector
Improving the use of evidence led by Professor Andy Kendrick – University of Strathclyde
The creation of research and evidence has a central role in the development of social services and professional practice in Scotland. This requires to be more effectively co ordinated, developed and disseminated so that it informs service users and carers in their choices, and practitioners in the improvement of social services. Key actions include;
- developing a forum of key stakeholders to establish key priorities for a research agenda for Al aspects of social services in Scotland
- establish a a research and knowledge funding forum.
Promoting public understanding led by Jane Devine – Social Work Scotland
Most of us or our families will come in contact with social services at some point in our lives and therefore collectively the sector needs to increase public engagement, promote the professional role of social workers and the wider sector. It needs to encourage the sector to be more confident in promoting what it does well and the contribution it makes across a wide range of services and partnerships. Key actions include;
- more clearly defining the sector
- proactively engaging the media
- undertake research into public understanding and value of the sector
Hopefully these give you a little insight to the work which will be undertaken over the next five years in the quest to further drive up standards within Scotland’s social services. The strength of the strategy and actions is, that going forward, the sector owns and works together and responds flexibly to an ever changing environment. Changing Lives identified that social services could not do everything itself. This remains as true today as it did in 2006. However in order to be as effective and dynamic as the sector can be, it must continue to develop. In doing so individuals, families and communities will benefit. For most of us that is the primary reason we entered this great profession!