New Scots directors head says universal services ‘unrealistic’

It may be unrealistic to provide universal services at a time when resources are so limited, Scotland's top social worker has warned. Michelle Miller,...

It may be unrealistic to provide universal services at a time when resources are so limited, Scotland’s top social worker has warned.

Michelle Miller, the new president of the Association of Directors of Social Work, said the country needs to radically rethink how it delivers services in order to deal with increasing demand and a squeeze on funding.

Miller, chief social work officer at Edinburgh Council who took over from Harriet Dempster as the association’s president last week, told Community Care: “The expectation is that we do everything to a very high standard and I’m not sure how realistic that is.

“If we, as a society, want to have universal services, free at the point of delivery for everybody irrespective of any assessment of need or means testing, we’ll need to factor that into our calculations,” she said. “Some difficult decisions will have to be made.”

The UK coalition government will announce next week how it plans to make £6bn in spending cuts this year.

In addition to finding new ways of working during the financial squeeze, Miller said ADSW’s primary role over the next year would be to provide leadership and advice to the social work profession in Scotland.

She also emphasised the importance of joint working: “There’s this rhetoric of joint working but I think we’ve only just scratched the surface. We have big organisations that don’t work well together. We need to get together more and share our priorities.

“That’s helped by different organisations having the same performance indicators and targets set nationally. If we’re all driven by the same thing, we’ll all be going in the same direction.”

However, Miller said she would take a “cautious approach” to any proposals for a college of social work in Scotland.

“We already have a number of different organisations; if we create another one, I would want to be clear about what added value it would bring.”

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