Scottish government proposes national social work agency

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Scottish Parliament Building (Photo: Heartland Arts / Adobe Stock)

The Scottish Government is consulting on plans to introduce an organization to oversee the country’s social work sector, including a national pay and grading framework.

Holyrood a proposed the National Social Work Agency (NSWA) as part of broader plans for a National Care Service (NCS) in Scotland, a consultation on which opened last week, including proposals to centralize child welfare services.

The decentralized administration said NSWA would oversee social work qualifications, workforce planning, improvement, training, professional development, compensation and grading within a national framework.

And NSWA would invest and raise the profile of social workers across NCS and partner organizations to ensure parity with other professions.

The Scottish Government has proposed a Center of Excellence for Applied Research for Social Work to support improvement activities alongside NSWA.

The Scottish Social Work Association (SASW) said the proposed NSWA could bring “significant opportunities” for the profession, including consistency in continuing professional development and research-based improvement in social work.

SASW National Director Alison Bavidge said: “The proposed National Compensation and Rating Framework offers a consistent Scotland-wide approach to additional specialist qualifications and senior practice roles. improvements that carry additional responsibilities. “

Lead organization Social Work Scotland said a discussion of national pay and rating structures was “overdue”, but declined to support Holyrood’s proposed framework.

“Compensation and national conditions may not be the right solution for social work, but we finally have the discussion and will have to consider all options,” the organization said in a statement.

More regulation on social work employers

Holyrood has proposed giving the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC), which regulates the sector’s workforce in the country, greater powers over social work employers.

The Scottish government has suggested giving the SSSC the power to compel social work employers to enforce any sanctions it has imposed on employees as a result of a fitness to practice investigation.

He recommended giving the SSSC more power to enforce the requirement of social work employers to adhere to its codes of practice.

And he proposed to introduce a legal obligation for employers to ensure that staff acquire the qualifications required for registration within the necessary deadlines.

“Providing these additional powers will ensure that staff are supported by employers to meet their regulatory requirements,” the consultation paper said.

Bavidge welcomed the proposed expansion of the SSSC’s current “unilateral powers” ​​over individual social workers, but not over their employers.

“SASW is pleased to see that the balance of focus on the individual worker may change so that when a hearing ability may require the action of a social worker, their employer also has the responsibility. “she said.

Social Work Scotland said the proposals “deserved to be considered” but that it “would engage with our members on these to understand the practicality and usefulness of the proposals” before taking a position.

The SSSC itself declined to comment on specific proposals. “We are carefully reviewing the details and will respond to the consultation in due course,” a spokesperson said.

Centralization of social assistance for children

The Scottish Government’s consultation on an NCS responds to one of the recommendations of the Independent review of adult social care, released earlier this year.

Holyrood’s consultation paper says NCS will cover adult social services, as the review recommends, “at a minimum,” but it proposes to extend the scope to children and youth, community justice , substance abuse services, and social work.

Adult social work in Scotland is currently organized by 31 Regional Joint Integration Boards (IJBs) responsible for planning health and social services.

Only 10 of them are responsible for social work for children and families, while 15 are responsible for social work for justice. In most regions, local authorities retain responsibility for children’s services instead of IJBs.

The Scottish Government is proposing to rename IJBs to Community Health and Welfare Boards, with all children’s services run through them.

He suggests that such advice would be funded by and accountable to the National Care Service and Scottish government ministers.

“Having social work and child social care within NCS will provide an opportunity for services to become more cohesive – built around the child, family or person in need of support – reducing complexity and ensuring improved transitions and support for those who need to access a range of services, including improved links to health, ”he says.

“The location within the SNC would also allow us to have a system where access, assessment, funding and accountability are all in one body. “

The Scottish Local Authorities Convention (Cosla) said the proposals were “an attack on localism and against the rights of local people to make decisions democratically for them”.

“It is not evidence-based and it will take years for it to be achieved – years when we should make improvements that will benefit all users of social care services,” Presidential Councilor Alison Evison said in a statement.

“Councils know their communities and all the evidence suggests that local democratic decision-making works. The counseling has shown time and again over the past 18 months of the pandemic that we can deliver to the communities we serve when we have the confidence and the resources to do so. “

Nick Kempe, from Scottish pro-independence think tank Common Weal, welcomed the Scottish government’s proposal to include children’s services, criminal justice and social work in NCS plans.

“This in turn, however, highlights one of the fundamental contradictions in the current thinking of the Scottish government,” he said.

“Committed to providing nonprofit services to children in the promise, their response to the independent review of child care, the consultation paper is based on the assumption that the private sector should continue in the national care service. “

The Scottish government will accept responses to its consultation until October 18.


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