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Friday, 07 October 2016

Engage: Valuing The Workforce - Alan Baird, Chief Social Work Adviser

Written by Alan Baird, Scottish Government's Chief Social Work Adviser

The past few weeks has seen considerable attention being paid to the value placed on a workforce, which in Scotland, is now in excess of 200,000. One in every thirteen working adults are now employed in the sector.  During September the sector received considerable national attention; the Scottish Government`s Programme for Scotland 2016-17, the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee inquiry on the Social and Community Care Workforce; and the publication of the Accounts Commission `Social Work in Scotland` report – each of these reports/publications highlighting the importance of the social care sector in Scotland.

Scottish Government Programme for Scotland 2016-17.

The one year programme sets out the wider and continuing commitment to have in place a skilled and competent workforce across all services. It builds on the actions of the Strategy for Social Services 2015 – 2020.

Within the section on Social Care and Caring, reform will continue with consideration given to commissioning of residential care and the role of new models of care and support in home care. The landscape of community justice is also changing with an additional investment of £4 million for community based alternatives to short term sentences

Health and Sport Committee

The committee is currently examining the Social and Community Care workforce and in particular, asking if there is enough staff to fulfil the vision of a shift from hospital care to community care and how the quality of staff is assured. It is also focussing on pay and retention, including whether the living wage will be adequate to retain staff.  On 5 September 2016 the committee heard from several organisations including Social Work Service Strategic Forum members Anna Fowlie (SSSC), Annie Gunner Logan (CCPS) and Donald Macaskill (Scottish Care).  The committee posed questions on a number of critical areas including the impact of the living wage, barriers to recruitment and the undervaluing of the workforce, which came up several times during the session.  Donald Macaskill highlighted the importance of the workforce as follows:

Even if we attend to the fundamentally important issue of proper terms and conditions, we collectively need to do more to advance the value of those who care for people – and we are just not doing that

I hope that the work of the five year strategy will see progress on the value of care with both the Workforce and the Better Public Understanding strands making a valuable contribution to the debate. However, a review of the strategy’s actions in November 2016 will undoubtedly reflect on this in conjunction with the Health and Sport Committee discussions on the social and community care workforce, as well as the findings in the Accounts Commission report on Social Work in Scotland.

Accounts Commission Report

At the end of September the Accounts Commission published Audit Scotland`s report on Social Work in Scotland.  Worth a read if you haven`t yet cast your eyes over it.  The headline from the report stated that current approaches to delivering social work services will not be sustainable in the long term.  Furthermore, the report states that further cost reductions could affect the quality of services.  The key recommendation is for local authorities to instigate a frank and wide ranging debate with their communities about the long term future for social work and social care, to meet their statutory responsibilities.

The report also made important references to the increasingly complex responsibilities of the Chief Social Work Officer’s (CSWO) role with a key message being that local authorities need to ensure that CSWOs have the status and capacity to enable them to fulfil their statutory responsibilities effectively. I look forward to discussing the recommendations with Scotland`s CSWOs over the coming months.

So the profile of the workforce has been high over the past few weeks and will continue to generate considerable discussion, given how critical a competent and skilled workforce is in Scotland today. Over the past two weeks I have also made, what I hope is a positive contribution, to supporting and valuing the workforce as part of my regular visits to services and engagement with frontline staff.

I was delighted to join Scottish Care, CCPS and SSSC at a network meeting of support workers in Glasgow. This is a new initiative funded by my office which helps provide a voice to a group of staff whose views are often not given the place they deserve.  We have much to learn from staff who provide vital services on a daily basis.  This meeting of staff also provided a focus on the health and wellbeing of staff and for those who follow me on twitter, you might just have noticed my lack of dancing talent.  Back to dad dancing for me, much to the embarrassment of my daughter!

The themed engagement programme with frontline staff this year continued last week with an event jointly planned with colleagues in the Carers Branch within Scottish Government, Carers and the SSSC. The event was designed to look closely at the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 and to provide delegates with the opportunity to hear from Moira Oliphant, Unit Head of Scottish Government’s Carer’s branch and colleagues, who have been instrumental in preparing the legislation.  Two further events are planned before the end of the year, one themed on supervision for first line managers and the other, on the use of research and evidence in the development and improvement of social services and professional practice.

Details can be found on the webpages for the Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser.

Clackmannanshire Council provided the focus for a visit to services last week. Of particular interest was the reorganisation of services since Stirling and Clacks moved away from a joint social work service earlier this year.  I was delighted to meet new Chief Social Work Officer, Celia Gray and her management team as well as meeting with focus groups, and visiting a resource centre for adults with physical disabilities and a children`s house providing the highest standards to accommodated young people.

Finally in this edition, a return to where I began – valuing staff. The third meeting of the Social Work Services Strategic Forum agreed a report to establish new national care awards next year which will take place at Crieff Hydro next June.  More details to follow over the coming weeks.  There can surely be no better way to value and recognise social services staff in Scotland.  Through the forum, all of the key players in the sector have given their support, so let`s make it a day to remember!

About the Author

Alan Baird is the Scottish Government's Chief Social Work Adviser. Previously he was Director of Social Work at Dundee City Council and a past President of the Association of Directors of Social Work. Alan was writing on the Talking Social Services blog which you can follow here: