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SASW report – February 2014

On 3 December the Scottish Organisation of Practice Teachers (SCoPT ) in partnership with SASW hosted the annual SCoPT conference, this time in Dunfermline, where participants contributed to workshops and listened to keynote speeches by Mairi-Anne MacDonald from the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and Felix Haggerty, Association of Directors of Social Work (ADSW), on the Career Framework for Social Work in a Changing World.

They also heard a presentation by Professor Lena Dominelli on the global picture, offering ample food for thought and much wider discussion. The event also provided an opportunity to communicate views on the future agenda for practice learning, as part of the consultation the SSSC is facilitating on the learning pathway and social work degree.

Scottish Social Work Expo and Conference: The planning group for this major event on 18 March, to be staged at the EICC in Edinburgh, met in December to consider the programme for the day. This is rapidly taking shape, with some very promising events and workshops planned for a stimulating day which aims to cover all areas of social work and social care – please reserve your place now by visiting

As well as hosting a number of workshops within SASW’s allocated space at this event, which coincides with World Social Work Day, we are also supporting the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) activity, including plans for Skype sessions to link with social work colleagues in other parts of the world.

SASW awards: On the evening of 18 March we hope to announce our Social Worker, Student Social Worker and Residential Care Worker of the Year award at a ceremony at the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh.

Scotland Committee:  The SASW Scotland Committee continued work on its strategic plan, developing the work-streams associated with this and critically reflecting on how we make sure that SASW actively involves our membership.

We know it is increasingly challenging to get members to join local groups and that BASW’s branch structure currently incorporates a branch in Highland and one in Forth Valley but is not a feature in other parts of Scotland. BASW/ SASW have a number of forums and special interest groups, and it may be that this is the best approach to communicating effectively with social workers and their workplaces.

New tech: Innovative methods of communication were central to early January SSSC days at Dundee University on ‘Developing mobile working solutions for social services in Scotland’. There were presentations on reporting through the use of video – for instance showing particular circumstances and/or views of service users and sharing these within an interagency context – and on the use of social media in learning. The events also featured online ‘badges’ for storing achievements in learning and in other areas.

There is a digital revolution taking place, and social work services have to be on board. There were apparently few local authority social workers present, possibly pointing to how difficult it is to find time for such development. SASW believes there is tremendous potential for using technology more in social work, but important issues such as user agreement, respect for human rights, and the safe storage of material – as well as the need to get away from computers and devices at times – need to be recognised.

It is also important to incorporate any digital communication within existing policies, rather than create a raft of new ones for workers to learn.

The irony of individual local authority IT department imposing both new requirements at the same time as a range of prohibitions was discussed as part of a recognition that there is a way to go.

Media: There has been a flurry of interaction with the media over the past two months. In the case of the Edinburgh social workers facing contempt of court proceedings for withholding a mother’s supervised access to her children, SASW commented only on the broad principles of the matter, since we were not privy to detailed information other than the formal court ruling.

We did suggest that this was a very unusual case, and also mentioned that we should never forget that this was about people’s lives, (i.e. the service users as well as the social workers involved). 

We are grateful for comments received from people familiar with the case which caused us to revise the initial response posted on our website, and encourage members to contact us if there are issues you wish or need to share. It is invariably complex to offer a rounded and accurate view of daily social work activity and its challenges to the media, as soundbites tend to be lifted from the wider context.

In a recent interview a sympathetic journalist wanted Trisha Hall’s view on the process of “taking children into care”, linked to a different case elsewhere in Scotland.

A further question then centred on if social workers were ever affected by their actions, or indeed “actually felt anything” when having to act to protect people when this was against the client’s or family’s apparent wishes. For a moment Trisha was taken aback that there should be any doubt about how intensely social workers can feel the enormity of what they sometimes have to do, and that their professional duty is often quite harrowing. But it was good to have the opportunity to publically underline that point.

BASW Communications: You should have received our e-bulletin featuring a survey inviting your views on PSW Scotland, Rostrum and how we might ensure you receive more electronic content in future. Please get in touch with your views on how we in SASW can communicate best with you, as we hope to secure a strong response.