We have a range of publications here which have been developed as a result of national projects we have run; or in conjunction with partners in social work and social care.

While we tend to publish online only, we sometime do have hard copies of these reports and can make these available to you if you contact our office.

Social Work leadership during COVID-19: March – November 2020

Introduction to the reports


The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed health and social care to the forefront of our collective awareness in the last year. It’s been a time of fear, isolation and disconnection, and so naturally focus sharpens on the supports and services that keep our family members, friends, loved ones and community connected, safe and protected. Social work has occupied a space in between those important social care services and vital health interventions. Its naturally liminal nature has been flexed and expanded to work alongside people whose normal structures of support have fallen away, and social work leadership has needed to respond quickly, pragmatically and sensitively.

During COVID-19 the social worker’s – and at a strategic level, Chief Social Work Officers’ – focus on human rights, dignity and relationships has been more important than ever. Across a diverse range of issues, from quality assurance of care homes to children’s access to digital technology, social work has tried to ensure that the voices, wishes and interests of individuals are taken into account, the diversity of the population’s needs understood, and support available to those that needed it most.

But while social work’s positive contribution to the pandemic response has been widely acknowledged, there remains a pervasive feeling that the role of the social worker is at best misunderstood, and at worst undervalued.

These commissioned separately, but are being published together as they provide related perspectives on the same picture: the realities of social work leadership through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

…I manage to do this job but I struggle to reach the important parts around connecting to the workforce, spending time with service users and contributing to the wider Social Work Scotland agenda’” – respondent to CSWO survey

The two reports surface consistent themes about the paucity of resources, the strengths and challenges of the Chief Social Work Officer role, and the profession’s voice in health and social care. They also illustrate the breadth of issues social workers (and in particular CSWOs) are necessarily involved in; and the fact that, in many of those areas, major changes in policy, structures and practice are under discussion.

The themes mirror results seen in the Scottish responses to British Association of Social Workers (BASW)’s 2020 survey of members, highlighting the ethical and moral dilemmas encountered by social workers on a regular basis, and a widespread feeling that social work has been co-opted into the role of ‘gatekeeper’ for social care services, rather than empowered to be a force for change and social justice.

As we look to the future, with change likely in all the public policy domains within which social work is an essential (albeit often unseen) component, it’s timely to consider what social work needs in order to realise its full potential. These reports provide insight into the leadership of social work’s experience of the systems and structures within which they operate, and provides us with some pointers for what reform needs to attend to: a strong profession, from the leadership through to the frontline, working in partnership with individuals, families and communities across Scotland.

Ben Farrugia
Director, Social Work Scotland
24 March 2021



TAGGED WITH: Adult Social Care, Children and Families, COVID-19

Reflections on the 1968 Act: Editorial

As the professional leadership body for social work, Social Work Scotland wanted to use the opportunity of the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Act to reflect upon what the Act has achieved, and what it still has to offer as we look forward. The result is a collaborative project between Social Work Scotland, Scottish Government and the profession reflecting one of the hallmarks of social work in Scotland – partnership. It involves seven specially commissioned papers that seek to look at the achievements of the Act, and to draw out the lessons for the future. In doing so, this publication is seeking to pause and reflect on where social work in Scotland has come from, and where it can build upon the successes to date as it faces both the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow. Social work has always operated in a context of change and challenge, and yet the need of wider society for social work is just as pertinent today as it was in the lead up to the 1968 Act.

TAGGED WITH: Adult Social Care, Children and Families, Social Work Justice

Prevention or Crisis Response?

The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 provided a framework for the newly formed social work profession to use cash assistance in its work with children and adults, for use in emergencies, for preventative and for promotional social work; cash assistance was seen as the resource of a comprehensive Social Work Department. Fifty years on, this small scale study explored the role of financial assistance today from statutory and third sector services through examining the original policy intention of s.12, whether use of cash assistance had changed over time and whether it currently played a role in addressing poverty.

TAGGED WITH: Adult Social Care, Children and Families, Resources

Personalisation: Back to the future?

Personalisation is now established in policy circles as a key element in the future of social work practice. By implication, the policy rubric suggests a return to aspects of relational practice, drawing on community strengths and affording the opportunity for social
workers to think imaginatively and use discretion. These are also hallmarks of the 1968 Social Work Scotland Act. This paper explores if personalisation in practice does indeed have resonance with the 1968 Act.

TAGGED WITH: Adult Social Care, Children and Families

Community: A radical current?

The idea of a universal, community-based service was key to the vision of social work that informed the 1968 Social Work (Scotland) Act. In the intervening 50 years did such a vision came to represent a radical, critical current within social work theory and practice in Scotland or did it remain largely aspirational? This paper draws on survey, interview and focus group data collected from current and past practitioners to consider this question.

TAGGED WITH: Adult Social Care, Children and Families, Organisational Development

Self-directed Support and Procurement Best Practice: Key points and myth busting

TAGGED WITH: Adult Social Care, Children and Families, Resources

50th Anniversary: Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968

TAGGED WITH: Adult Social Care, Children and Families, Organisational Development, Resources

Best Practice and Local Authority Progress in Self-Directed Support

TAGGED WITH: Adult Social Care, Organisational Development

Adult Support and Protection Cross Boundary Cases: Best Practice Principles

TAGGED WITH: Adult Social Care

The Mental Health Officer: capacity, challenges, opportunities and achievements

TAGGED WITH: Adult Social Care

Archived Publications