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SASW report - June 2014

Media coverage: April featured a number of television programmes, at times broadcast simultaneously, which gave an honest and well-balanced reflection of the challenges involved in assessing the care and protection needs of children, as well as a series focused on looking after our elderly population. Many commentators reported on how welcome it was to note the positive reporting on the hard work social workers undertake on a daily basis.

In Channel 4's 15,000 Kids and Counting, the social worker working tirelessly to secure a permanent placement for two young siblings was praised. Meanwhile, BBC Two's Protecting Our Parents featured a student social worker in Birmingham planning for an elderly person who was recognised for her compassion and patience. We also heard how student social workers seemed to spend more and apparently quality time with the elderly person and her family in planning a way forward.

Better outcomes: Our own SASW Student Social Worker of the Year 2013 stood out because of the time and effort she spent securing better outcomes for an elderly man, and in finding a solution-focused response to meeting the needs of many service users in a geographical area. At SASW, members have made us aware that with the caseloads workers have, such quality time is at an absolute premium.

Decisions about hospital discharge in Scotland have presented significant obstacles to good outcomes. A chief executives' letter (CEL) distributed in December has resulted in cases of people being placed in interim placements which social workers felt were inappropriate and placed them in direct conflict with their code of practice. This has been brought to the attention of the Scottish Social Services Council, which has posed questions to the policy makers. Please let us know your challenges, as well as the examples of good practice in your area or integrated teams, so that we can address these as well as learn how solutions have been found by social workers.

Public image: While good publicity about social work is welcome, one always wonders what the viewing figures are and who switched over to Sky Movies. There is much to do in changing the culture so that social work is universally recognised as the valuable profession it is. The Social Services Strategic Forum, chaired by Children and Young People Minister Aileen Campbell and facilitated by Chief Social Work Advisor Alan Baird, has as one of its workstreams “improving the public image of social work services”. The strength of the forum is that it is not intended to be a group of people reflecting or planning – there has been enough of that. Changing Lives and various other initiatives and policies have developed a clear foundation. The forum intends to focus on action, putting substance to what we already know. SASW is at the table and we are putting our suggestions forward.

Student visit: A number of social work students from the Czech Republic visited the Scotland Office in late April to find out what SASW does and why people join. It was fascinating to hear their experiences of social work and how the profession there is growing and changing.

Criminal justice: Our professional Officer Tim Parkinson supported a Criminal Justice Development day in North Ayrshire on 1 May. There were workshops for staff to identify ways in which the organisation could free them up to practise in a professional casework style while still providing essential recording and progress monitoring (PM) data. There was interest in what SASW is doing to support a similar drive towards promoting and maintaining the value of professional practice despite an increasing adherence to procedures. The Criminal Justice Forum is a mainly online interest group which practitioners can join. Please contact Tim at t.parkinson@basw.co.uk for more information.

Committee changes: With a number of people coming to the end of their term, there will be changes to our Scotland Committee. Graeme Rizza, our Convener for the past four years, is stepping down and we are very grateful for his leadership and quiet tenacity in ensuring the needs of social workers are respected and considered both within and outside BASW. Graeme has journeyed from Moray repeatedly to represent us on BASW Council. Thankfully, he will remain a member of our committee. Robin Duncan is retiring from social work after a long career in Falkirk and will step down from the committee. We thank him for all his work and dedicated input to SASW, and hope that after a well-earned break he may well consider other activities on our behalf.

By the time you read this, we will be about to confirm our Scotland Committee at our Annual Members Meeting. We hope many of you will attend this and the debate on the forthcoming referendum that follows. If you can’t attend but would like SASW to come to your area or workplace, please let us know.

Unbeatable: Finally, we attended a meeting of the Children Are Unbeatable coalition, led by Children 1st, where Panorama's investigation of abuse in care homes was raised. Reflecting on the outcry over footage of an old lady being slapped by a worker who was subsequently dismissed, one member wondered why we didn't react in a similar way when a young and vulnerable child was smacked. Section 51 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act provides parents and carers with a “justifiable assault” defence if they hit a child of any age as punishment. This means that it is still legal to hit a child in Scotland. As one of only four European states that have not yet done so, surely it is time to change the law.