First minister pledges central role for social work

Scotland’s first minister Henry McLeish urged social workers to
have confidence in their profession and speak out on behalf of
service users.

He pledged that social work had a central role in the nation’s
future policy development but he said that over the past few years
he had detected “a loss of confidence, a less vigorous voice” on
behalf of the profession. “It is time now to speak out again in
this period of great change,” he added.

The first minister promised that additional finance would be
made available to local authorities for social care over the next
few years. Reminding delegates that local authorities themselves
decided how to use resources, he urged senior councillors to
allocate the money to social care.

From the floor, Ian Baillie, director of social work for the
Church of Scotland, asked what the first minister intended to do
about the gap between the costs of residential care and available

McLeish made it plain that he was far from impressed by the
recent actions of Scottish Care, which represents the private
owners of residential and nursing care homes, in banning new
admissions of older people and threatening to evict residents.

He declared: “This problem will not be resolved by threats but
through dialogue.”

A meeting between Cosla, the Scottish executive and Scottish
Care is due to be held this week. McLeish added: “Hopefully that
will be the beginning of a resolution to a problem that we all seek
to resolve.”

Speaking on the morning after the General Election, McLeish
reassured delegates: “Far from marginalising social work under
different departments or as part of some restructuring, it is
central to the main policies of this government for years to

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