Traditionally, November is one of the busiest months of the year for conferences and awards. This year was no exception.
When Ranald Mair, Chief Executive of Scottish Care leaves a message on your phone asking you to contact him three days before their national care home conference you can guess there may be a role looming at the conference. Unfortunately, Lord Sutherland, Honorary President of Scottish Care had to call off chairing the conference at short notice. Who was on the list of conference delegates who could step in a short notice? Yours truly was delighted to step in knowing from experience there is nothing worse than being faced with the worry of identifying last minute substitutes!
The Scottish Care conference continues to grow with 450 delegates and over 70 exhibitors in attendance. In my opening remarks I suggested that you knew when a conference had reached mega proportions when, not only was there an increase in numbers attending or that the conference had not one but two hash tags, but that delegates could also enjoy one and three quarter hours for lunch! In reality this time allowed delegates to meet with many of the exhibitors. The conference and awards dinner in the evening provided an opportunity for the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, Shona Robison to thank Ranald for his excellent service to the sector over the last eight years with Scottish Care. She did however recognise that she would likely face further interesting discussions with him before he retires in March of next year. Of that there is no doubt!
Like the conference, the annual awards dinner continues to grow in popularity with 650 care home staff competing for 14 individual and team awards. Popular host Michelle McManus is probably being one of the few hosts able to keep an excitable audience of this size in check!
The previous weekend saw the annual SASO ( Scottish Association into the Study of Offending ) taking place at which I provided some thoughts on the past present and future of criminal justice services. I was also delighted to catch up with the former Moderator of the General Assembly to the Church of Scotland, the Very Reverend John Chalmers who I spent some time with last year during joint visits to Crossreach projects in Scotland. John`s after dinner speech reflected on the current challenges facing the world and that of his own family as a result of his son being very badly injured on duty in Afghanistan. Never did his son talk of revenge in respect of those who set the roadside bomb killing two of his best friends. How poignant it was to switch on the television that night to learn of the horrific attacks in Paris.
In contrast to the Scottish Care conference, SASO is much smaller but it`s intimacy and contribution from a wide range of stakeholders does ensure not only high quality input but robust discussions in an informal environment – something not always possible within the criminal justice system in Scotland.
Finally I took the opportunity to attend a four nations seminar at Cardiff University. It has become an annual meeting of those academics and policy makers from across the UK. The focus of the November meeting was neglect. Scotland was well represented by Scottish Government, Edinburgh and Stirling Universities as well as the NSPCC and WithScotland. Interesting contributions from each of the four countries. There is general agreement that there is much more to across the UK with a generally held view that there is more we can do together to deal more effectively with what is often a more hidden and often subtle form of abuse. How critical might the named person be in helping identify those children at greatest risk?