30 June 2016

As the impact of last week`s referendum unravels and the underdog prevails at the European Championships, you might be forgiven for believing everything else had been put on ice. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. It has been an exceptionally busy period for matters social services and in particular for the Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser who provide me and the wider sector with outstanding support on a wide range of policy and practice matters. The last few weeks have continued to highlight the extent to which my role is dependent on an effective, hardworking team behind the scenes.

Organisation of the quarterly meeting of the Social Work Services Strategic Forum is case and point, with the preparation of reports, support to the leaders of the four workstrands of the strategy as well as briefing for its new Chair, Minister for Childcare and Early Years Mark McDonald, all essential components of a successful meeting. Papers on the review of the social work degree which includes proposals for a support year for newly qualified social workers, a report on the Occupational Therapist engagement events held earlier in the year and a proposal to introduce national social services awards all featured on the agenda of the June meeting.

girfec logoThe popularity of frontline practitioner events has continued this year with themed events on GIRFEC attracting over 160 practitioners in Glasgow and Dundee. The success of these events is based on shared learning. On the one hand practitioners hear directly from the Scottish Government policy team and on the other hand practitioners are able contribute to the development of practice.  It was also an opportunity for the Minister for Childcare and Early Years to hear direct from frontline practitioners.  Minister Dundee 2016These events followed on from a similar event on child protection in May. Further events on the introduction of the Carers Act and an event for frontline managers will follow later in the year. Details will be available nearer the time on our webpages.

November and June are two if the most popular months for conferences and awards. The last fortnight has been no exception. Social Work Scotland held its highly successful conference in Crieff with a number of highlights including the Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans, Cormac Russell and the Street Cones Theatre Company. Perm Sec SWS ConferenceI am sure the afore mentioned will not mind me highlighting in more detail presentations by Sally Magnusson and Amal Azzudin who both spoke with warmth, passion, emotion and humour sprinkled throughout. Sally`s personal account of her mother`s dementia as reflected in her book `Where Memories Go` From her experience Sally founded Playlist for Life which encourages families and caregivers to create a playlist of personally meaningful music on an ipod for people with dementia.

Amal Azzudin, one of the original `Glasgow Girls` arrived as a refugee with her mother from Somalia. Amal provided a powerful reflection of coming to the UK and then to her home in Glasgow. SWS Conference AmalShe continues to work tirelessly to support asylum seekers whose rights of appeal have been exhausted. Like Sally her work continues. I am looking forward to seeing the musical of the Glasgow Girls at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Congratulations to Social Work Scotland President Elaine Torrance and her team for putting together an excellent conference.

Last week I was privileged to be the keynote speaker at the Cornerstone staff conference in Stirling and to attend the staff awards in the evening. Cornerstone is an organisation I have long admired with a longstanding commitment to quality through their late founder Nick Baxter and has continued and indeed strengthened through current Chief Executive, Edele Harris.IMG_1034 I was particularly pleased that Frances Parry from Cornerstone in Dundee won a well -deserved lifetime achievement award. Frances is captured here with Louise Baxter who presented the award.

The conference theme continued as I chaired the Scottish Care annual Care at Home conference. Unfortunately as it was referendum day the Cabinet Secretary was unable to speak so yours truly stepped in. I will never make a politician! As a nation we  will require to have a strong, professional and stable workforce which seeks to make a social care a profession of choice. Hopefully the payment of the Living Wage from October will begin to address some of the current concerns and challenges. I also believe that many of the actions of the Social Services Vision and Strategy will also go some away to making social services a profession of choice.

Finally, Sarah Gledhill and I visited Fife Council over the past few weeks. I am grateful to Dougie Dunlop, Chief Social Work Officer for continuing with our long arranged visit at what has been a particularly difficult time for staff in children`s services as well as Police Scotland and NHS Fife. Our visit covered a number of key areas including staff and service users who are building knowledge and expertise in self – directed support. It was particularly helpful to hear from those who are now able to make greater choice about their support packages. We also made a visit to a residential home for older people where an intermediate care unit has been established as part of a wider strategy which is making an impact on delayed discharges.

The next couple of months sees the retirement of two of Scotland`s former Directors of Social Work and Presidents of Social Work Scotland. Harry Stevenson and Sandy Riddell are currently Chief Officers of Integrated Joint Boards. Both have had long careers in social work and I wish them well in the future.

As the recess approaches along with well – earned leave, I hope you will enjoy the reflections of some guest bloggers over the coming weeks. I will return during the last two weeks of August. The Euros will have been replaced by the Olympics but the impact of last weeks vote will be with us for a very long time.

Have a great summer!