Fit for Purpose

Throughout this year and the previous two, the Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser has continued to place engagement with frontline staff as a priority in developing a regular dialogue between Ministers and those staff whose voices may not be heard as clearly as they should.  The themed Practitioner Engagement events this year have proven particularly popular and have covered child protection, GIRFEC and the new Carers Act. However none have been ‘sold’ out as quickly as the day on supervision practice in Stirling last week with 100 places gone within two days, attracting managers from across Scotland.  codes-launchIt was two for one day as the Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald and Anna Fowlie from SSSC also launched the revised Codes of Practice – one of the actions from Scotland’s Social Services Strategy.  The Codes, which place responsibility on both employers and individuals, have undergone extensive consultation and I recommend you take the time to read them.

Returning to supervision, my colleague and Professional Social Work Adviser, Jane Johnstone did an excellent job in chairing the event with her recent experience as locality manager with North Lanarkshire Council being of benefit to the smooth running of the day. supervision-1The experiences of East Ayrshire Council through Susan Taylor and her team provided the stimulus for excellent discussions which are currently being written up. Wendy Jack from West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership also provided a nursing perspective on supervision within an integrated partnership. Finally the day ended with the second SSSC launch and appropriately with the supervision guidance resource provided by Jess Alexander.  With the event proving so popular, attention is turning to the possibility of a further event in the New Year.  The event underlines just how critical managers view supervision as part of their responsibilities in helping support and develop staff working in the most challenging of environments.  Supervision 2.jpgIt cannot be an over statement to suggest that regular structured and effective supervision can be the difference in retaining some of Scotland’s most skilled and experienced staff on the frontline! It is after all 3.5 of the employers responsibilities namely;

“To provide effective, regular supervision to social service workers to support them to develop and improve through reflective practice”

cornerstoneRecent weeks have seen both me and members of the OCSWA team continue our visits across a range of services. I was delighted to meet up once again with  Edel Harris and John Grant at Cornerstone to hear how about their exciting plans for ‘Local Cornerstone’ are developing.

Similarly, Carr Gomm are also making exciting plans for the future. I was delighted to meet up with Chief Executive, Lucy Wren and her management team at their offices in Edinburgh.  carr-gommIt is undoubtedly a challenging time for the third sector but they are facing up to the challenges with innovations such as Click Go which attracted considerable interest at the Google Impact Challenge.  carr-gommCarr Gomm were a top 10 finalist with an iPad which is a stand alone system supporting self directed support. Worth a look!

I was delighted to take part in the Aberlour staff conference and awards.  The debate was  “can enabling more risk taking in our practice have benefits for the children and young people we support”aberlourThe panel essentially agreed that ‘yes’ it could.  There is however always a but! Questions like this to help reflect on ones own practice both as a social worker and as a Director of Social Work.  Our  professional and personal experiences help shape us, of that there is no doubt, but we did generally agree that both culture and leadership are critical to the risk we are prepared to take.  The Aberlour staff awards provided an intimate and family atmosphere where I was delighted to present the team of the year award to the Scottish Guardianship Service.  Congratulations to them and all the the other winners and nominees.  Most popular winner of the night was Mary McFarlane whose long service award recognised her 40 years  working as a frontline children’s residential worker in Aberdeen.  There are not many in Scotland who can boast of 40 years on the frontline.  If there are more Mary’s in Scotland please let me know.

As I look ahead to the next couple of weeks visits to Turning Point, Orkney and Shetland beckons as does a refresh of the Vision and Strategy for Social Services in Scotland 18 months on. In this quickly changing world it is critical that members of the Forum and other key stakeholders reflects on what as been achieved in the first eighteen months and more importantly ensure the strategy takes account of the changing landscape.


 Photos courtesy of SSSC.