With the white smoke now dispersed above Bute House, and with it clarity on the Cabinet and Ministers for the new term, a brisk pace has been established as the business of Scottish Government quickly builds momentum.
The Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser have both a new Cabinet Secretary and Minister – John Swinney, DFM and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and Mark McDonald, Minister for Childcare and Early Years. I’m looking forward to working with them both. Mr McDonald will have responsibility for development of the social services workforce and will chair the national Social Work Services Strategic Forum which next meets on the 7 June. More on the Forum in my next blog. Our previous Minister, Aileen Campbell has moved to Public Health and Sport and goes with thanks for her strong support of the sector and in particular her commitment to listening to the views of frontline staff during the engagement events over the past two years.
As you are aware from my various blogs and tweets over the past two years, I spend as much time as I can out and about talking to staff, visiting services and understanding the current challenges facing staff across the sectors and how they meet these challenges. Part of that engagement is meeting with Chief Social Work Officers who fulfil a statutory function as part of the local authority responsibilities. It can be a somewhat isolated and increasingly challenging role, particularly given changes in structures and governance arrangements. Their leadership role in assuring themselves of the quality of social work services is considerable, particularly as day to day responsibility may sit within other parts of the local authority service. All of this can be daunting and worthy of whatever informal support I can offer, especially where a Chief Social Work Officer maybe newly appointed.
Maria MacKay has recently taken over such a role and follows Iain MacAulay who recently retired as Director of Social Work in the Western Isles. A recent two day visit coincided with the hottest weather of the year with an evening photograph of Stornoway harbour providing the evidence. My visit with Jane Johnstone, Professional Social Work Adviser not only provided an opportunity to meet with Maria but also to meet with the Director of Children`s Services, Bernard Chisholm and Ron Culley, Chief Officer, Health and Social Care Integration now settled in Lewis with his family and hens.
Last week saw the first meeting of a short term project steering group on child protection at Edinburgh University, chaired by Prof Vivien Cree. This ESRC supported project has three objectives;
1. To share evidence from research with policy makers in order to inform the policy agenda towards co- producing a more citizen focussed child protection practice in Scotland.
2. To exchange knowledge and understanding about what is and isn`t working in child protection with managers and practitioners.
3. To generate a conversation with service users and the public more widely about the role and task of statutory child protection.
It is anticipated that the work of the project will make a positive contribution to the work of the national Child Protection Improvement Programme in Scotland.
The child protection theme continued last week when I was delighted to provide the opening remarks at the two day `Pride in Practice` Conference at the Stirling University. This collaboration between practitioners, With Scotland, SSSC and SASW was to reflect on evidence based practice in child protection in Scotland. In the current climate events like this are far too rare and yet if Scotland`s practitioners are to learn and develop practice, such events cannot be seen as a luxury!
Continuing on the child protection theme, the Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser held the first of a number of themed front line Practitioner Engagement events at the Carnegie Centre in Dunfermline. The day attracted around 80 delegates from both the statutory and third sectors. It was based round the key areas of the Child Protection Improvement Programme and views from the day will help inform the Leadership Summit being held on 3 June 2016. A further example of how engagement events with frontline staff can influence policy developments in Scotland. Details of the forthcoming GIRFEC focused events on 8th (Glasgow) and 28th (Dundee) June can be found here
Finally congratulations to Elaine Torrance who last week became President of Social Work Scotland. I have no doubt Elaine will provide excellent leadership to what is now an organisation growing rapidly. Colleagues in Scottish Government and I look forward to working with Elaine and her team over the coming year.