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Scotland’s social care and social work sector explore new approaches to accessing support

Key stakeholders and leaders in the social care and social work sector have come together to start exploring alternative approaches to how care and support could be accessed across Scotland.

The first online discussion event, “Eligibility: Exploring Alternatives”, was organised by a collaboration of professional bodies to consider how care and support is managed and how decisions about allocation of resources in other parts of the UK are made. The intention was to begin the exploration of whether similar models could be adopted in Scotland.

It comes in the wake of the recent Independent Review of Adult Social Care by Derek Feeley, who concluded that decisions on care and support are being “hampered in the first instance by considerations of eligibility and cost”.

This first event sought to initiate a national conversation around whether an alternative approach to using eligibility criteria now needs to be considered alongside the Scottish Government’s proposals for a National Care Service.

A number of UK-wide speakers were invited to present their ideas and experiences, with attendees then having opportunities to discuss them and how they could be consistently applied across Scotland.

Dr Emma Miller, a qualified social worker and driver of the Personal Outcomes Network who was heavily involved in designing the event, commented:

“The purpose of this event was to rethink how we make decisions around accessing care and support in Scotland. The current approach based on eligibility criteria often overlooks opportunities for preventative support and strengths-based practice, which is inconsistent with what social workers and care providers want to deliver.

“While there are many voices advocating for change, there is no doubt that this is a challenging and complex topic. Putting forward a robust and fair alternative solution is not simple and requires a lot of work and joint thinking.

“That’s why we wanted to bring the sector together and get the ball rolling in the first instance. I’m heartened by the excellent turnout and positive contributions and ideas made by representatives across the sector, including those with lived experience and frontline workers, and I’m confident we now have a platform on which to move the conversation forward.”

SASW National Director and event Co-Chair, Alison Bavidge, added:

“This event has proved to be a worthwhile first step in considering how we want social care and social work to be accessed in Scotland. It’s particularly relevant with the National Care Service Bill now published and beginning its process through parliament.

“Social workers regularly find themselves hamstrung by a system that doesn’t lend itself to early intervention and prevention. It’s not only frustrating for the profession but leads to more intense and avoidable problems longer term which is putting strain on the workforce and lets down people who need help. We cannot continue down this path.

“The challenge is how to shift the paradigm to an enabling, rights-based approach while making the best use of all available resources. This event was a helpful start to approaching that question. I’m enthused by the breadth of ideas that came out on the day.” 

The project will now gather further perspectives to continue building an evidence base for change. More events are planned over the coming months to support this research.