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Scottish Association of Social Work warns of significant pressure on justice services in midst of community service backlog

*** For immediate release***

Scottish Association of Social Work warns of significant pressure on justice services in midst of community service backlog

The Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) has warned against “significant and unmanageable pressures” on justice social work services as over 700,000 hours of unpaid community service hours remain outstanding. The open letter, penned to Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf, says that the need for physical distancing has reduced the capacity of justice social work departments and this is not going to resolve in the foreseeable future, and recommends an urgent reduction in outstanding unpaid work hours.

SASW National Director, Alison Bavidge, said: “Justice social workers have worked through the pandemic to supervise people who present the greatest risk and to keep families and communities safe. Whilst the restarting of the Courts will no doubt create pressures within departments and impact on the wellbeing of our members, our key concern is the potential that slow orders, disconnected by periods of time from the judicial process, could lead to an increase in people being sent to prison”. 

Chair of the Justice Standing Committee for Social Work Scotland, James Maybee, said: “Social Work Scotland continues to argue that in response to the effect of coronavirus, action by Scottish Government is necessary to vary community payback orders with unpaid work and other activity requirements to reduce the backlog of unpaid work hours. This will alleviate the pressure on Justice Social Work which is due to a significant reduction in capacity due to ongoing covid-19 restrictions.” 

The letter goes on to state that justice social workers do not want to have to manage the flow of orders by the using of waiting lists, warning that this would be demoralising for victims of crime and risks people breaching their orders and returning to court.

Community Payback Orders (CPOs) were set up in 2011 by the Scottish Government as a restorative justice method, replacing short term detentions in prison. Requirements for a CPO include unpaid work, such as cleaning beaches, gardening in parks or helping in a charity shop.


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Notes to Editors

  1. The Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW), part of the British Association of Social Work (BASW UK), is the largest professional association for social workers in Scotland. More can be found, here.
  2. The full letter can be found here:
  3. Social Work Scotland is the professional leadership body for the work social work and social care professions. More can be found, here.  
  4. For more information on this release, contact Emily Galloway on, 07592641642