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SASW calls for “informed debate” to address challenges raised by Accounts Commission

As a report from the Accounts Commission warns social care services in Scotland are “unsustainable”, SASW has called for an “informed debate” on the challenges facing the sector. The report, prepared by Audit Scotland, said an additional £667m would be needed by 2020 to maintain current levels of service.

Commenting on the report publication, SASW Manager Trisha Hall said: “SASW welcomes this report which describes the huge pressures facing local authorities, Joint Integration Boards, providers and the social services workforce in Scotland. We are pleased that the Commission has recognised the need for an urgent debate on the future of our work in order to continue to deliver services to the most vulnerable people within our society. It is heartening to note the emphasis on the importance of the role of the Chief Social Work Officer within local authorities in providing leadership, and their statutory role in advising locally elected members about their responsibilities.

“We need to have an informed debate about how we address the very real challenges highlighted in this report within the wider social services. That means treating people in the workforce with respect, such as ensuring that social workers don't have to spend their time booking desks as part of ‘agile working’ and giving all social care staff a living wage. We need to nurture and support staff and allow appropriate training and staff development so people don't leave. We also have to invest in allowing social workers to have the time to develop meaningful relationships with people who use services. Social workers must have the time to reflect on what they are doing, and should be offered consistent and regular supervision and support to make sure that the people they work with and for get the best assistance available in order to lead better lives. That takes additional resources and an investment in the workforce at all levels; front line, middle management and senior level.

“Social work is an important profession, and our members are proud of the work they do on a daily basis in what are often very challenging circumstances. We come in to the profession to make a real difference, and there are so many stories that show examples of very good outcomes, the best achieved with real and meaningful input from people who use the services. We need to have some bold discussions on what we can do differently in order to address what the Accounts Commission describe as a “watershed”. This includes speaking with and actively involving people with lived experience of services across the spectrum, as well as with the people who work in the sector.

“We hope that this report will also lead to political decisions related to funding, as well as a process of change in the current systems. There are choices to be made here. There is much research and information gathered over many years which consistently tells us how we need to invest in early intervention; much of this suggests involving people and their communities. SASW would like social workers to be based in communities and be accessible to people, not rushing from door to door and spending excessive amounts of time on reports and administrative duties. Prevention can become more than a buzzword in a strategic report if we begin to take this concept seriously. Examples of innovative working are mentioned in this report; there are many across Scotland. In order to give these a chance we need a financial input, but also ensure change projects have a guarantee of a minimum lifespan of 10 years”.