SASW response to Programme for Government 2019-2020
Last week, the First Minister introduced the Programme for Government 2019-2020, setting out the planned legislative and policy programme for Scotland for the coming year. This included 14 new bills, as well as other non-legislative announcements. The central theme was tackling the “climate emergency” declared earlier in the year, with the introduction of a number of measures to meet aims to reach net-zero emissions by 2045.
Examples of announcements relevant to social work include bringing forward regulations so that the new Scottish Child Payment of £10 per week can be introduced from December and investing an additional £20 million over two years into drug services in Scotland. A committment to roll out a national approach to the recently piloted supported first year for newly qualified social workers was also made, which we welcome.
SASW is seeking further clarity, and plan to undertake lobbying and political engagement over the coming months on the following three areas of the programme:
“Continuing to support mental health, with a 24/7 crisis support service for children and young people and their families, a community wellbeing service enabling self-referral for children and young people”
We welcome any commitments from the Scottish Government to support mental health in Scotland. However, we would like to see preventative and crisis work enhanced in the social work domain, and not exclusively in health settings.
We believe this could specifically be achieved by freeing up some social workers in the poorest localities, to support cases that don’t yet meet the thresholds for statutory social work intervention. This could include allowing social workers to have occasional presence in local schools or in GP surgeries, as has been effectively pioneered in New Zealand.
Social workers supporting preventive work and joint engagement with Health, Schools, GP’s and Police would help improve relationships with social services and avoid it being seen as intrusive or threatening. Almost 40% of the registered social workers in Scotland work in third sector and not in statutory social work services, focusing on child protection, though their job title may be ‘social worker’. Everyone – including Scottish Government – needs to work hard to ensure this essential profession is better understood and respected.
“Take action to provide further support to care-experienced people, including help to secure tenancies, greater access to dental care, wider eligibility for support for further and higher education and expanded entitlement to funded early learning and childcare”
We welcome higher education support for care-experienced young people being expanded but want to see ring fenced funding for mental health and substance issues in this group, to allow more people to overcome the impacts of previous trauma and be in a place to study. Alistair Brown, current National Director of SASW came to the Association having just been directly involved in providing a highly effective and low-cost social work pilot providing early intervention mental health support for care leavers aged 16-25. This was cut in 2016, at a time when it should have been rolled out across Scotland. As figures show, care experienced young people are 5 times more likely to be in a psychiatric hospital, have a mental health diagnosis, or end up in prison. While we see that £20 million is being invested to reduce drug deaths, this will not help care experienced who are in a grey area between mental health and substance services and have a specific set of needs.
“A reform of the adult social care support programme launched this year, led by the expertise and experience of people who use social care support and those who work in the sector”
SASW would welcome the chance to be involved in this work as the professional association for front line social workers and will continue to try and influence this moving forward. The values and experiences of front line practitioners are invaluable when designing any type of reform and we believe it is essential they are included.