Social Work Scotland: A new integrated voice for Scottish social work

How the Association of Directors of Social Work is reinventing itself for an integrated age

After almost 45 years as the collective voice of social work leaders in Scotland, the Association of Directors of Social Work (ADSW) is no more.

Today, at the ADSW annual conference in Perthshire, it will be reborn as Social Work Scotland, but the change is more than a mere rebranding.

The new organisation seeks to be a broader church than its predecessor, representing not just the senior social work managers in local government but any manager whose organisations are directly involved in delivering social work services, be they private companies, charities or part of the health service.

Integration is the driving force behind the change, says Harry Stevenson, president of Social Work Scotland and executive director of social work resources at South Lanarkshire Council.

Two-thirds of Scottish social services are already integrated with other services such as education or housing, he says, and the new Public Bodies Act is about to usher even greater integration of care and health services.

“It’s a much more formalised approach to integration than we have ever seen before,” says Stevenson.

“What we have recognised is that changing environment.

“While Social Work Scotland will be the voice of the social work profession, we still see that we need to open up our membership to different organisational arrangements that deliver health and social care services to the public, so it’s a recognition of that and the need to modernise, reposition and broaden our appeal.”

Social Work Scotland is, in short, better designed for that integrated future than its predecessor.

“It will give us a more holistic voice. I think we always had that capacity but there will be new knowledge, new experience, new generations of staff coming into these new bodies that will bring a different perspective on things and I think it’s important that our approach and policies reflect that.”

But the concern that widening the remit of the ADSW in the name of integration could weaken the voice of social work in Scotland is one Stevenson is keenly aware of.

“It’s fair to say that initially there was some concern about whether we would lose our identity and lose that voice for the social work profession, but through the process of changing we’ve given reassurance that the foundations of this are very much in the social work profession.”

To coincide with its formal launch, Social Work Scotland has published Our Foundations, a document that broadly sets out its plans for the next decade.

It identifies several ways in which the new organisation hopes to make a difference.

These include making more cohesive contributions to policy development, helping to develop the new governance arrangements that integration will bring and working with other organisations to address workforce issues like succession planning.

But while some of Our Foundations looks years ahead, there are plenty of more immediate things to deal with including responding to the Scottish Government’s plan to reshape the criminal justice system, monitoring the impact of integration on children’s social work and preparing for the introduction of the organisation’s new qualification for chief social work officers.

And by opening up its membership to the social work sector as a whole, Stevenson adds, Social Work Scotland should be well placed to make the voice of the profession heard on these issues and more.

“We should be able to embrace a broader view of social work provision – it isn’t just about social workers clearly because most staff who work in local authority statutory social work are not qualified social workers,” he says.

“Embracing partnership and coproduction isn’t just about how we might support people who require assistance but how we work together as partners, and in the context of community planning in Scotland that’s a really key issue for us all.”

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