Local authorities and social work organisations have responded
angrily to a decision by the Scottish Prison Service to privatise
social work services to some prisons.
Without any consultation or publicity, the Scottish Prison
Service has invited tenders for the provision of social work
services to four Scottish prisons - Edinburgh, Glenochil, Dumfries
These facilities are funded by the prison service, but provided
by local authorities and managed by social work departments.
Jim Dickie, director of social work for North Lanarkshire
Council and criminal justice adviser to the Convention of Scottish
Local Authorities, revealed that there had been no consultation
over this move and said: "We picked up rumours of the development
early in April and have yet to receive a full explanation."
Norman Murray, president of CoSLA wrote to the prison service
raising his concerns, but was advised that social work service to
prisons was "an operational matter" and not for discussion.
Further correspondence has received the answer that it is "a
pilot to explore Best Value". Dickie said: "We are left quite
bewildered by the prison service's reasons."
In the meantime, all mainland local authorities, key voluntary
organisations and the independent sector have been invited to
express interest in providing the service by next week.
The speed of the move together with the lack of consultation
means that none of the social work staff employed in prisons are
aware that their employers may change or their jobs are at
This week, CoSLA will meet justice minister Jim Wallace to
discuss the Scottish executive's strategy on criminal justice.
Dickie said: "Ironically, the meeting was arranged to discuss
plans for joined up criminal justice services across Scotland, yet
the prison service seems to believe that social work in prisons is
beyond political overview. We will be raising this issue with the
The Scottish Prison Service commented that the move was part of
a Best Value process.