‘Para-professionals may increase errors’

Plans to employ “para-professionals” in Scottish social work could lead to more serious mistakes in child protection, Scotland’s first minister has been warned.

Ruth Stark, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers Scotland, spoke out after Jack McConnell said every social worker in the country and other front-line professionals would be retrained in child protection.

In a speech to the Scottish Labour Party conference, McConnell said a lack of communication by professionals had “characterised too many past failures”.

“It is still happening today. It infuriates me, and ordinary members of the public don’t understand why it happens,” he added, saying the Scottish executive would legislate to force professionals to share information for child protection purposes.

But Stark said McConnell had to recognise the pressures on social work and the fact that staff were already undergoing more training and continuous professional development than ever before.

She said the plans for para-professionals, contained in the executive’s response to last month’s 21st Century Social Work Review (‘Para-professionals’ set for Scotland, 9 February), could cause more “calamities” if these staff did not receive the same level of training as social workers.

“It would be fair to say that every social worker in Scotland is fully aware of their responsibilities towards child protection,” said Stark.

“Many have been practising for years in this area and are concerned at the lack of understanding of the few resources we have to help us, such as the lack of foster parents to look after children.”


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