The lead in period to the Scottish elections has been an interesting time to experience life as a civil servant within Scottish Government. Leading up to Purdah there was the inevitable frantic activity of ensuring various pieces of work were completed and passed to Ministers for agreement and sign off. I guess a little bit like clearing your desk and inbox before the holidays! Will it be the same `teachers` returning on 6 May? The start of Purdah was quickly followed by a chilled period with staff catching up on well-earned holidays and rest before being reminded by more senior colleagues that Purdah is a excellent time for discussing priorities, sorting out budgets for the new financial year, analysing manifestos, getting into planning mode and generally preparing for a new government. As I write, civil servants have now assumed the brace position, waiting for the white smoke to appear from Bute House and with it a frenzy of activity in preparing incoming Ministers for their new portfolios or renewing old acquaintances. One thing is for sure a new term will ensure a busy and challenging time for Ministers and civil servants alike!
The Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser has not been exempt from any of the above but perhaps has not endured some of the frantic preparations of civil service colleagues with very significant policy responsibilities. We have enjoyed some of the chilled, some of the planning and I hope are now ready for the new government and the inevitable challenges that it will bring to all of us. Nevertheless both I and the rest of the team have remained active over the past few weeks.
As the Purdah period began, I joined a large workshop event in Glasgow to examine the progress made on the review of the social work degree and on a proposed support year for newly qualified social workers. It is encouraging to report good progress on both these significant areas and I am hoping that over the coming months more concrete proposals will emerge.
North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership proved excellent hosts when colleagues and I and visited their headquarters in Irvine. Presentations and discussions took place on a wide range of issues including how the partnership was tackling domestic violence, child protection, re-ablement, peer research, SNAP, kinship care, adults in distress and criminal/youth justice. A busy but most satisfying day where it appears that strong and effective leadership has emerged, with changing cultures, a shared agenda of early intervention and evidenced based for both NHS and local authority staff. Staff surveys appear to support these new ways of working and are particularly positive about the role of senior managers. I am grateful to Stephen Brown, CSWO for arranging such an excellent day and to NHS and local authority staff for their presentations and discussions.
Scottish Care has a new Chief Executive, Donald McCaskill who replaced the irrepressible Ranald Mair. I met with Donald recently and I am delighted that he will be joining the Social Work Services Strategic Forum. Donald`s support for the sector will be vital in the coming months, as will his support of the support workers network being driven forward by Katherine Ross in Scottish Care. I wish Donald every success in his new post.
Looking ahead, the next few months will see the return of frontline practitioner events which have attracted a great deal of interest over the past two years, with this year`s events being undertaken in conjunction with policy colleagues in Scottish Government on subjects of policy interest. These include;
`The Role of Social Services in Protecting Scotland`s Children` 18 May 2016, Carnegie Conference Centre, Halbeath Road, Dunfermline KY11 8 DY. Tickets can be booked at;
GIRFEC and 2014 Act- What does this mean to you? 8 June, The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow G1 3NU. This event is now fully booked. A further GIRFEC event has been scheduled for 28 June, Discovery Point, Discovery Quay, Dundee DD1 4XA Places can be booked at;
Further events will be announced in due course including the new Carers Act and one aimed at first line managers/team leaders. I am hoping that the Cabinet Secretary/Minister will be able to attend all of the events.
As you read this the outcome of the Scottish elections will be known and attention turning to who will fill cabinet and ministerial positions. It is really hard to believe it is now a year since the UK elections and of course in a year`s time the local council elections will be the focus. There is also the small matter of the European Referendum in June. Well I guess that is the price of democracy and a price worth paying!