The passing of the first 1,000 days of the
Scottish parliament last month was described by the Conservatives
as “1,000 days of spin” and by the Scottish National Party as “a
job half-done”. However, first minister Jack McConnell met this
criticism by pledging that his Scottish executive would “do less
but do it better”.
and better is all very well but something really has to be done
about social work. With the rest of the UK raising the profile of
the profession and introducing degree level qualifications,
Scotland has been dragging its feet.
the 2003 Scottish parliament elections in sight, the SNP announced
that children would be at the centre of its campaign. SNP leader
John Swinney exposed the shortage of social workers and the impact
that this was having on children’s services.
work usually fares no better in the Scottish press than elsewhere.
But even the media have begun to see that there is a crisis in the
sector. The Sunday Herald recently carried the headline
and strap: “Revealed: how the system is failing social workers …
and our children – 80 per cent of all social work teams say they
need more staff and vital resources”.
prevention a key policy area in children’s services, this issue
revealed the chasm that has to be bridged. Irene McGugan, the SNP
deputy minister for children and a former social worker, dismissed
as “empty rhetoric” the executive’s claims to have children at the
heart of policy. “It is only testimony to the hard work of social
workers that we don’t have more headlines about children suffering
and dying because there aren’t enough staff to intervene in their
week, Cathy Jamieson, the minister for education and young people,
earmarked time for a debate on social care workforce development.
The minister, also a former social worker, launched an “action plan
for social workers”. This plan outlines the immediate and
short-term measures to be taken, including a campaign to raise
awareness and tackle recruitment, the introduction of an honours
degree in social work and investment of £3.5m for training and
support of front-line staff.
Successive MSPs in the debate
chided the executive for taking so long to act but spoke with
understanding of the significance of social work. Conservative Ben
Wallace said that social work “doesn’t get the profile it
deserves”. Labour’s Trish Godman hit the nail on the head when she
pointed out why social work lacks status: “We have no minister for
social work and no relevant committee”.
seemed to be cross-party support for generic training and for
rewarding those social workers who want to remain at the front line
rather than move into management. The profession has been given a
shot in the arm and at least the hope of recovery.
Shona Main is the parliamentary officer for
the Association of Directors of Social Work.