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SASW report - September 2014

Contrary to business as usual it has been a month of few meetings, as many colleagues were on holiday, no doubt enjoying this wonderful summer. Things are hotting up again as consultations on various issues, legislation and policies are coming in thick and fast; yet the atmosphere is one of anticipation and in some areas trepidation as we await the outcome of the independence referendum on 18 September.

Although social work in Scotland is a devolved matter, significant issues affecting people’s wellbeing are not. The subject of “Austerity and the Impact of Welfare Reform” was debated by members in Inverness at a conference on 2 September. Many social workers are faced with people in scenarios of increased need - a 400% increase in the use of food banks was reported recently and there is evidence everywhere of children and families, vulnerable and elderly people struggling to make ends meet. The concept of social work as a community-based resource, as agents of change who are pursuing social justice, can feel far removed from an everyday reality.

So is it all doom and gloom in what has been such a sunny period? There is good news.

There are examples of great practice and dedication, and it is a joy to hear about them. The Signs of Safety approach is enabling and empowering families to make informed contributions to child protection case conferences and East Lothian is one such development that we hope to feature in a coming edition of PSW.

There were young people from Who Cares? Scotland who gave compelling verbal evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee on “decision making to take children into care” and some spoke well of social workers (although frequent changes were noted in many instances). SASW contributed to the second sitting of the committee, highlighting some of the pressures on our profession and suggesting improvements.

There are local authorities who are actively facilitating workshops with social workers where they are inviting comment on how things could be done better; how to cut down on admin and other ways of getting back to forming the relationships with the people we work with and for. SASW has supported a number of these events.

We are involved in a partnership which is planning an event around newly qualified social workers. We are hoping to visit many universities to talk to social work students in first and fourth year. We have an enthusiastic Scotland Committee which met again on 4 September and have four representatives at BASW Council. We are also pleased to confirm some excellent keynote speakers for our MHO Forum Annual Study Conference in Perth on 7 October.

There is a real imperative in keeping social work as a unique profession high on the (often integrated) agenda. There are now only three 'social work' departments left in Scotland but many hard working social workers within the new settings.

We met with Harry Stevenson, President of Social Work Scotland, and agreed we need to ensure governance of social work and social workers is supported, protected and enhanced. Let us know if you feel marginalised; we are working with partners to ensure we remain strong. We have increased our membership by almost a 100 since last October and need you all to recruit more members for us. We are credible if we are a force to be reckoned with.