Maybe it is an age thing but more and more I hear myself asking the question `Where has this year gone?` It is always reassuring to hear others asking the same question! I don`t know about you but I never seem to get a satisfactory answer.
Since April, I have had the opportunity to meet with many service users, carers, practitioners and managers during engagements which have taken me from Aberdeen to Dumfries, Inverness to the Scottish Borders and from East Lothian to both North and East Ayrshire Councils. Over thirty visits which have included listening and learning at a number of national charities supporting disabilities, mental health and children`s services. What stood out is the use of evidence based practice and of course the benefit to those being supported. One particular visit stood out for me this year, when I visited Barnardos in Easterhouse where I met two single parents who, on their own admission would previously have not let any social workers over the door. ( That is the polite version of their description! ) The men had both spent periods of time enjoying the hospitality of the Scottish Prison Service, before assuming parental responsibility for their children. The enthusiasm for the Positive Parenting Programme ( Triple P) and how it had changed their lives and that of their children was remarkable. Two men now able to recognise the positive impact that social services had made on their lives.
Is it really nine months since the Vision and Strategy for Social Services in Scotland 2015 – 2020 was successfully launched on World Social Work Day by Acting Minister, Fiona Macleod at the Hub in Edinburgh? Who can forget the standing ovation given to the young people from Who Cares Scotland, for the first time telling their own care experience stories in public. The strategy has been positively received by the sector, providing cohesion, direction and focus at a time of enormous change in the public sector. As I have said many times, the strength of the strategy is that it is written for the sector and by the sector. More on the strategy later.
Later that night, a star struck Trisha Hall from the Scottish Association of Social Workers tried in vain to keep calm as she introduced Glasvegas at the SASW awards. Highlight of their short set was `Geraldine`. The star struck bug quickly spread as Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive, SSSC and former Director of Social Work and CELCIS Board member, Bernadette Docherty rushed to join the queue of groupies! Talking of the SSSC, they published their Annual Report and accounts earlier this month which provides an interesting overview of their valuable work in 2014/15.
Within the Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser, a tremendous amount of work has gone on throughout the summer to support five practitioner engagement events which took place across Scotland, with more than 500 staff attending in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Dundee and Inverness. The report on these events were discussed at the meeting of the Social Work Services Strategic Forum on the 8 December. Each of the events was attended by either the Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning Angela Constance, Acting Minister for Children & Families Fiona MacLeod or Aileen Campbell on her return from maternity leave. The events evaluated positively with the contents of each summarised in a report and passed to each of the workstrand leaders for the strategy. The Practitioner Engagement Summary Report of the events can be accessed are available on our webpages.
We will also be holding 2 further engagement events for Occupational Therapists in February next year for in Dunfermline and Clydebank. Details on how to book a place can be found on our webpages.
One of the key actions of the strategy was to bring together in one document, all of the statistics available to the sector. This will be available early in 2016 , in the meantime did you know that in 2013/14;
- £3.92 billion was spent on social care services
- 78,000 people received free personal care
- 203,000 weeks of respite care provided
- 31,400 criminal justice reports were submitted to the courts
- 84% of the workforce is female
- 31% of the workforce are employed in a local authority setting
- The number of people receiving dementia services from home care rose by 20%
- 84% of respondents surveyed in the Scottish Household Survey rated the overall help, care or support as either excellent or very good
The report tells us much about quantity. Looking forward it will be important to establish what the information tells in qualitative terms. So a great start but more to do!
I am enormously grateful to my team in Scottish Government who, throughout the year, have made a significant contribution in support of the strategy, sponsorship of SSSC, organisation of the front line events, organising my visits and much more besides. Grace even found time to bake this amazing cake for the Directorate’s annual Christmas fundraiser in aid of Forth 1s Cash for Kids.
Finally back to Glasvegas and the life changing work of Geraldine:
“When your sparkle evades your soul
I`ll be at your side to console
When you`re standing on the window ledge
I`ll talk you back, back from the edge
I will turn, I will turn your tide
Be your Sheppard and your guide
When you`re lost in the deep and darkest place around
May my words walk you safe and sound
When you say I`m no good and you feel like walking
I need to make sure you know that`s just the prescription talking
When your feet decide to walk you on the wayward side
I will turn, I will turn your tide
Do all that I can to heal you inside
I will be the angel on your shoulder
My name is Geraldine, I`m your social worker”
This time of year can be the most difficult for many vulnerable and lonely children, adults and older people. Scotland is fortunate to have many Geraldines across our health and social care workforces in local authorities, NHS, national and local charities as well as the independent sector. Many of us are fortunate enough to be able to celebrate the joys of Christmas with our families and friends. We should pause during this time and think about those `lost in the deep and darkest place around` and the many Geraldines who over the holiday period will be there to offer support and care. Thank you to everyone who will be working over the festive period.
I wish you and your families a very happy and peaceful Christmas With best wishes for 2016.