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Welfare reform 'tsunami' calls for us to be good neighbours says Scottish social services head

A new form of Neighbourhood Watch is needed to look out for the most vulnerable as they are hit by a “tsunami” of welfare reform, one of Scotland’s leading social services directors warned.

Peter MacLeod, President of the Association of Directors of Social Work (ADSW) and Director of Social Work in Renfrewshire, said more people may suffer mental illness due to the impact of benefit cutbacks.

Addressing the Scottish Association of Social Work Awards in Edinburgh, he said: “Welfare reform is a veritable tsunami that is going to engulf all of our community and unfortunately hit the most vulnerable hardest.

“I also have fears for the mental health of people in these communities; that what is happening will draw people in who are not currently reliant on our services.

“We must look out for people and empower them to look out for one another. It is almost a different form of Neighbourhood Watch because we are going to have to support the vulnerable and there are going to be more of them relying on our services.”

Mr MacLeod added that social workers have a vital role to play in helping individuals and communities cope with the effects of benefit changes.

“Social care and social work is the glue that binds us together,” he said.

Last year, on assuming the role of ADSW’s Vice President, Mr MacLeod warned in an interview with The Herald in Scotland that welfare reform measures could lead to more acquisitive crime.

Highlighting cuts to job-seekers’ benefits and support for the sick or disabled, he said: "This will create more mental health difficulties and there is an issue about criminality because of the sheer lack of availability of an income safety net.”