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SASW statement on Care Inspectorate report into learning from Significant Case Reviews

SASW was disappointed to see the findings of the Care Inspectorate Report into the results of 25 Significant Case Reviews across Scotland, between March 2015 and April 2018. This found that some agencies did not always recognise or respond quickly enough in some of the most serious child protection cases. As social workers, we are there to protect and support the most vulnerable in our society and the death or harm of any child is always felt deeply by our profession.

Alistair Brown, SASW National Director said: “SASW notes that the media have chosen to ignore comments by the new CEO of the Care Inspectorate within the report, and the Scottish Government policy direction that child protection is “everyone’s business” and chosen to solely blame social workers. Cultures of blame don’t benefit the children and adults we are trying to look after.

It is essential that all agencies supporting children and young people work closely together and understand each other's role and have time to build relationships with children and families, as well as each other. We regularly hear from members that austerity is by no means over and expectations are constantly growing in the face of serious cuts over the last decade. Professionals who work hard and are tasked with supporting vulnerable people do so in a context of greater need and less resources. Greater investment in services, a more consistent approach to caseload allocation and ensuring we listen and take full account of the experiences of children and families who need services, in the shaping and delivery of those services would be a step in the right direction.”

The report outlined that uncertainty within the system around underlying assumptions, expectations and understanding of the named person service, as well as understanding of professional roles in multi-agency teams was a factor in almost half of these cases. Issues around thresholds for intervening in instances of neglect and the need for more robust and regular supervision was also a factor.

SASW note that the Scottish Government is currently engaged in the development of guidance to support information sharing and the named person service. We look forward to the prompt issuing of refreshed, coherent practice guidance to ensure consistent and appropriate information sharing, to ease the confusion which currently exists. We also note the work being undertaken to reform and modernize legislation around emotional abuse and neglect. SASW believes it is imperative that clear guidance is provided to social workers as the thresholds for intervening, and the definitions of these concepts may shift in this process.

SASW supports the use of GIRFEC and children’s plans to strengthen multi-agency practice. All agencies involved in child protection must work closely together to understand each other’s processes, thresholds and scope for action. In these times of diminished resources, professionals must draw on each other and understand where different skills and responsibilities lie in working with families.

Our recent working conditions survey echoed the findings around supervision, with social workers across the UK reporting a need for positive professional working conditions, strong leadership, manageable caseloads and the need for regular supervision to work through complex cases. SASW will continue to champion the voice of the social work profession and campaign for these improvements.

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