How devolution is affecting social care: Ritchie Johnson, director, Scotland

Ritchie Johnson, director of housing and social work at Aberdeenshire Council,talks about his experiences.

“There’s no doubt the Baby P case has had an affect on the approach that people take. But while it won’t have a structural effect, there is a case in Dundee going through review [into the death of toddler Brandon Muir], and the effect of that hasn’t emerged yet.

“We also have child protection committees which are multi-agency and across local authorities. In the North East, we’re looking to see if that can be strengthened. This year, Aberdeenshire will be one of the first areas to have a new multi-agency inspection of child protection across the local authority, health and so on, by the HM Inspectorate of Education in late summer. They are going to carry out a proportionate inspection [focused on certain areas of practice rather than a full inspection] to look at where the risks are, to take away some of the bureaucratic burden.

“There is a strong voice for social work from ADSW (Association of Directors of Social Work). It has a priority to change how we’re seen in the media. There’s a long-running campaign to get a balance on what’s reported on social work.

“Changing Lives [the Scottish government’s review of social work] is something that we have much support for. One of the key things is to make sure we can free up frontline practitioners, and also to get them debating issues of work – as part of that we’re holding practitioner forums to share and replicate good practice.

“The extent of personalisation varies across Scotland but in Aberdeenshire it is taking time to make sure services are tailored. There’s a balance between personalisation and the best use of resources. For staff, it is a change. Although I wouldn’t say it has reached them in a significant way as we only have a relatively small number [of people on self-directed support], it does ask a social worker to play a slightly different role.”

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