Accountability ‘slipping’ away from chief officer as role remains unclear

More than halfway through 21st Review of Social Work in Scotland,
the future of the chief social work officer remains unclear.

Fears have been raised that the post has not figured in
discussions, amid concerns over the accountability of chief
officers and differing interpretations of the role.

Ruth Stark, professional officer at the British Association of
Social Workers in Scotland, told the Association of Directors of
Social Work’s annual conference that the accountability of the
chief officer seemed to be “slipping”.

She warned that the importance of accountability had been
highlighted by Lord Laming’s inquiry into the death of Victoria
ClimbiŽ, which contained “key messages” about leadership in
social work. Senior managers were slammed for not taking
responsibility for mistakes by Laming’s January 2003 report into
the failures that led to the eight year old’s death.

A subgroup, chaired by Fife Council head of social work Stephen
Moore, is considering how leadership should be developed but
contains no brief to review the role of chief officers, even though
they have professional oversight of key decisions, such as whether
children should be taken into care.

Former president of the Association of Directors of Social Work
Peter Cassidy, whose campaigning led to the establishment of the
role, was worried about the lack of attention given to it in the
year-long 21st Century Review. He said: “If we look across Scotland
the role of the chief social work officer varies a lot and the
review needs to look at that.”

Moore said that “because it has not been mentioned so far there is
a concern that there is a subtext it will not exist in the future
or it will be in a much diluted form”.

The leadership group is considering issues including barriers to
leadership and whether there should be a framework of competencies
for leaders. It will report in July.

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