Social Work Scotland is the professional body for social work leaders. Our membership spans local authority and third sector organisations, across the range of social work provision, and we work closely with our partners to shape policy and practice and improve the quality and experience of social services. Social Work Scotland as an organisation, and across the membership we represent, are committed to the Promise and delivering really significant change in the children’s care system. We therefore welcome this opportunity to comment as part of the development of Plan 2024-30, on how we have been supporting work to meet the Promise.
As we noted in our response to the Methodology consultation, the Promise is an ambitious and whole-system-scale change, with many intersecting threads. It is reassuring that, despite a challenging context over the period of the first plan, such significant progress has been made to keep the Promise in Scotland. This provides a strong foundation for ongoing improvement and change. Of particular note is the steady embedding of participation, inclusion, and listening to the voice of young people and their families; changes to language and approach which are transforming the experience of children and young people. There has also been progress with changes needed to enable some of the Promise’s fundamental commitments, such as maintaining the connection of brothers and sisters and removing young people from detention in YOI. That this has occurred in a context of a global pandemic (with the continued impact this continues to have on the lives of children and families), and with workforce and financial pressures not seen in many decades is testimony to the commitment of the sector. We note and concur with the comments in the forward to the final report from the Children’s Services Reform work undertaken by CELCIS. ‘Given what is currently being achieved within the context of limited human and financial resources and the ever rising and complexity of demand, we can only imagine what this dedicated workforce could achieve in an optimal environment.’
That wider context is a critical consideration for Plan 24-30. If as a society we are to meet the commitments within the Promise, the foundations for this need to be in place., Those foundations were outlined clearly in the Independent Care Review and underlined again in the Children’s Services Reform research. Aspects such as a stable, suitably skilled, and sufficiently staffed children’s services workforce are not peripheral, “nice if we can get them” ideas. They are the foundations, or perhaps more accurately the means, by which we will realise and deliver the Promise. We will not be successful if we do not attend to such core components. Unfortunately, it is our judgement that too little progress has yet been made on these fundamentals. The reasons for this are clear and understandable: the covid-19 pandemic and its long tail of workforce complications, global conflict, and the movement of people across borders, and an increasingly tight fiscal environment for the public and voluntary sectors. But as we consider the Promise Plan 24-30, attention to the fundamentals must be paramount. Change built on shaky foundations, if achieved at all, will not be sustained. The path to the outcomes we all seek for children and young people and families runs through the people who provide them with support, protection and advocacy.
With this in mind, we summarise below how Social Work Scotland has supported delivery of the Promise to date, and the views of our members on the conditions necessary to continue that progress over the coming 6 years.