Trees That Bend In The Wind

Work is underway by the Social Work Services Strategic Forum to review progress and, th-blog-4where necessary, refresh the actions of the Vision and Strategy for Social Services in Scotland, to ensure they remain relevant and useful – more news on this after the next Forum meeting in March 2017.

I met recently with Ian Welsh, Chief Executive of The Alliance to follow blog-10up on their successful event in November 2016 which examined the Audit Scotland report `Social Work in Scotland` This report, written for local government, remains significant and requires a continuing focus by the sector, given the very real challenges facing social services in Scotland at this time.

In my last blog I highlighted the new Scottish Social Services Awards – an opportunity to showcase the excellent practice in services for children, adults, older people and criminal justice. The ten innovative award categories are not only designed to promote an 19-dec-blog-5individual, team or organisation, but also to build on the successes you may have already had in your own organisation`s awards over the last couple of years. Details of how to enter can be found on the Awards website:  Read also more about the Awards on the guest blogs from some of the judges, featuring Jane Devine of Social Work Scotland, and Claire Lightowler of The Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice.

Remember – entries must be in by 28 February 2017.


A visit to Perth and Kinross Council in January provided an opportunity to catch up with Chief Social Work Officer, Bill Aitkinson and Jacquie Pepper, Head of Children`s Services. Perth and Kinross set the bar high in relation to their progressive approaches to service development and high standards of service.  This was especially evident during visits to their joint substance misuse and community payback teams, as well as the respite unit for children with learning disabilities, for which Woodlea Cottage achieved a marking of ‘excellent’ in the categories that were assessed in their Care Inspectorate Inspection Report.


Last Friday I met a long standing commitment to meet up with Anna Houston, Managing blog-3Director, Carewatch based in North Ayrshire and covering a number of local authorities in the West of Scotland. These are some of the most challenging times for providers as they juggle priorities and challenges and I appreciated the opportunity to meet with staff on their induction week along with a range of experienced colleagues over lunch.  Whilst there are many frustrations for staff, I never fail to be impressed by the passion they have for caring and supporting our most vulnerable citizens.  I spokeblog-9 about the often difficult subject of end of life care and asked: How do we better support our care staff?  How do employers help their staff to grieve in the immediate aftermath of the experience of finding someone they are caring for, had passed away when they arrive for what would be, a routine visit.

The newly published report from Scottish Care: “Trees that Bend in the Wind” explores the experience of front line support workers delivering end of life care. Scottish Care blog-2hosted an event for more than 120 frontline staff on Wednesday where they launched the report and provided an opportunity to discuss the key recommendations from the report. I was privileged to speak at the conference and to take the analogy of staff feeling that they are like trees bending in the wind, I suggested our trees need strong routes, well fed and watered and planted together to form forests. Forests are stronger together and more likely to thrive for a longer and more sustained period of growth!  Perhaps it applies much wider than end of life care as we need to face the challenges of caring in Scotland in 2017.

Between now and the end of March there will be two more Talking Social Services blogs which will, amongst other things, reflect on my last four years as Chief Social Work Adviser to the Scottish Government.

Well done to Scotland`s rugby team for a good match played on Saturdayblog-1. We remain a nation of optimists.