Scots social work shake-up

The Scottish executive has unveiled its plans for a major overhaul of social work.

Education and young people minister Peter Peacock announced the plans following the publication of Changing Lives, the report of the 21st Century Review of social work.

Among the proposals are:

• A set of national priorities backed by legislation.
• Creation of a tier of professionals to work under the direction of social workers.
• A strong framework for continuous professional development. 
• More responsibility for front-line staff.
• Strengthen the role of the chief social worker officer to provide leadership and maintain professional practice.
• Review education and training programmes.

Peacock said that the programme of reforms will take place over two parliaments and the executive will support social work through the period of change.

“It is clear we need to take radical and comprehensive action to transform our social services sector – to build new confidence, stronger leadership and the kind of management culture that supports the empowerment of front-line social workers.” 

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) has responded positively to the changes. Its social work spokesperson Eric Jackson said “Social Work is about changing lives, I endorse any proposals that seek to improve people’s lives and people’s life opportunities.”

He also said that social work staff do a tremendous job at the front line “protecting people and promoting inclusion”.

Cosla has also backed the executive’s call for a clear legal framework for social work and a set of national priorities.

Jackson also called for more cash saying that Cosla looked forward to “extra investment to modernise systems and invest in services and hope that this will not be inconsequential.” 

William Roe, who chaired the review, said that the review did consider radical restructure but were “unanimous that it was not the best thing for society or a small country like Scotland. Roe spoke of an appetite for change among front-line staff to exercise their skills and make decisions where previously they have been hampered by too much management and not enough leadership.

Over the next six weeks members of the executive will visit social work departments gathering views on the proposals. However, Roe said there is no need to wait, “Almost nothing needs to wait for the legislation,” he said. “Putting that into practice needs to be done by people close to the ground and I’d encourage them to get on with it now.”


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