Back to nurture

Ministerial speeches to professional conferences come and go, and
rarely linger in the mind beyond the evening’s conversations in the
bar. One speech that did was Sam Galbraith’s 1998 speech to the
annual conference of the Association of Directors of Social Work.
Galbraith, then health minister in the Scottish Office, announced
his seven-point social work modernisation plan to the assembled
directors. He asked the ADSW to take action to strengthen support
for front-line staff. The result was the ADSW’s management resource
pack Supporting Frontline Staff.1

Following Galbraith’s speech and the ADSW’s response, the Scottish
executive set up a working party to improve the recruitment and
retention of staff. In 2002, Cathy Jamieson, then minister for
education and young people, produced a 12-point action plan, which
outlined measures to modernise and plan the workforce.2
One of these was for a post to support staff, which became the
project co-ordinator for the Supporting Frontline Staff

The three-year initiative, which started in April, is a unique
project set up by the Scottish executive and the ADSW. It is unique
partly because of its scope – it covers violence toward staff,
recruitment and retention, stress, image, e-government, the new
degree (due in September 2004), how to share good practice, audit,
training in leadership, and continuing professional development.

The initiative is also unique in that the executive is directly
funding the initiative for £300,000 over three years. This
funding separates it from anything else in the UK, where
well-established joint discussions and policy formulation usually
take place between professional associations and government. “It’s
a really positive method of demonstrating the relationship,” says
Orkney director Harry Garland, chairperson of the ADSW’s training
and development sub-committee.

It is an ambitious programme, for it will also include staff in the
statutory, private and voluntary sectors. Project co-ordinator
Addie Stevenson will be responsible for seeing that the objectives
and outcomes, which will be announced in August, are implemented.
But she will also have to draw in parallel initiatives. One of
these is the Scottish Social Services Council’s appointment of
Edith Wellwood as learning and development adviser to work on
workforce planning.

A series of reference groups will bring together interested
parties. The core group comprises the Scottish executive, ADSW, the
Social Work Services Inspectorate and the SSSC. Other satellite
groups consist of the Care in Scotland Group Forum and front-line

Stevenson says: “A lot of the work is about joining up what is
already in existence and it is important that front-line staff know
about that. It’s like crocheting a patchwork blanket and I’m here
to sew in the parts that join up the squares.”

As the Supporting Frontline Staff initiative was getting under way,
the executive announced an action plan for recruitment. It is also
spending £500,000 on a pilot project with the Convention of
Scottish Local Authorities to attract graduates to a fast-track
qualification scheme.

Duncan MacAulay, ADSW president and director of operations at
Edinburgh Council, says: “Recruitment and retention need to go
hand-in-hand. The executive has published its action plan and we
hope that the work that we can do through this initiative will mean
that the retention side of things complements recruitment and
becomes less of a problem.”

Scotland’s recruitment problems are acute with 400 vacancies – 10
per cent of social work staff – and 400 new entrants a year. The
total social care workforce has shrunk by about 4,000 from 38,330
in 1998. One task will be to gather information about movement of
staff – why they move and why some authorities have problems and
others have stable workforces. “More hard data and less anecdote,”
as MacAulay has put it.

The scope of the initiative and the number and variety of staff it
involves beg questions about what can be done in matters like, for
example, a poor working environment in one place or lack of
training opportunities in another. The answer, says Garland, is
“being realistic” and dispensing with the blight of so much present
day social care “tick box attitudes”.

1 Association of Directors of
Social Work, Supporting Frontline Staff, 1999

2 Scottish executive, Action Plan for the Social
Services Workforce
, 2002

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.