Who would be a social worker? That is a question Cathy Jamieson,
minister for education and young people in the Scottish executive,
is about to address in a big way with Scotland’s first recruitment
campaign for social work.
The campaign, which kicks off on 22 October, will feature four
weeks of television and press advertising followed by a repeat of
the advertising in January. All adverts will carry the core
message: Care in Scotland – life changing work. They will also
carry two telephone numbers, one for the Scottish Social Services
Council for careers advice, the second for a jobseekers’ helpline
that will link in with different local authorities. A key focus
will be the relationship between service user and social worker,
which recent research revealed as being the most important to
The recruitment campaign is the first of 12 proposals in the Action
Plan for Scotland, which was announced by the executive in April
when an extra £3.5m was announced for local authorities to
fund training and support front-line staff.
The campaign will set out to address the issues of recruitment and
retention of staff as well as improving the way social work is seen
by the public and the media. But it promises to be tough. According
to the latest figures on social work staff, in the 10 years to
October 2001 the number of qualified social workers rose by more
than 20 per cent to 3,900. But the number of staff in local
authority social work departments fell from about 40,000 to
34,683,1 reflecting the increasing role
of the independent sector in direct service provision.
Nevertheless, Jamieson, who formerly worked with young people at
risk and is now Labour MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley in
Ayrshire, relishes the challenge.
Speaking exclusively to Community Care, she says the
campaign will have a huge impact on anyone who has considered
social work as a career but perhaps has not known how to proceed
with an application.
“We aim to put social work on the map,” the minister says. “In
recent years demand for social workers has risen, but the workforce
has not kept pace. There is a staff shortfall of between 350 and
400 across Scotland – 8.5 per cent of all social worker
The social work sector has shaped the campaign through a steering
group consisting of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities,
the Association of Directors of Social Work, the voluntary sector,
the Scottish Social Services Council, the Scottish Qualifications
Authority and Careers Scotland.
“The success or otherwise of this campaign will depend on effective
partnerships between the executive, employers, local authorities,
academic institutions and employment advisers,” Jamieson
The minister describes recruitment so far as patchy and haphazard,
with different problems emerging in different areas. Glasgow has a
shortage of staff to work with children, while some rural areas in
the Highlands find it difficult to attract specialist staff.
Throughout Scotland, there is a shortage of home care
Although Jamieson insists that access to training and a solid legal
foundation is essential, the climate is not encouraging. The number
of graduates in Scotland with a degree in social work fell from 303
in 1996 to 193 in 1999. Edinburgh University this year decided to
scrap its social work degree course and move all other social work
training to its law faculty.
Jamieson hopes to launch the new degree course by autumn 2004,
although she accepts that this is an ambitious target. But she
acknowledges that training and qualifications are not much good
unless public perceptions of social work improve too.
“For many years now social workers have been desperate for
something to be done about their image,” Jamieson says.
“We will be challenging stereotypes and making sure the public
appreciate that people who become social workers are as varied and
diverse as they are in any other profession.
“We need to rethink our approach and modernise it so we can sell it
to the young people in the 21st century.”
Mission impossible? Jamieson doesn’t seem to think so.
1 Staff of Scottish Local Authority
Social Work Services 2001, Scottish executive, October 2002, from
Campaign information from www.careinscotland.co.uk