Chief Social Work Officer Survey: 2021

Chief Social Work Officers

The findings from this year’s Chief Social Work Office survey fall at an interesting time in the broader landscape; as we wait for news about the National Care Service and a proposed National Social Work Agency, and amidst the Promise Overview Board’s first report and the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. Social work  has never been so important – as a profession we continue to try 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.

What’s reflected in the responses is no surprise, but is confirmation of the body of evidence we’re building through this third year of the survey, (you can read last year’s results here) and strong relationship to our Setting the Bar report, due to be published on 1 June, which look at the gaps between the capacity of the workforce, and the aims of legislation and policy.

One consistent message in the Chief Social Work Officer survey is that there is continued pressure around recruitment, resources and the impact of demand on other services. The pandemic, recent arrivals from Ukraine and the sheer scale of change currently is pushing social work to a critical tipping point:

Significant recruitment and retention issues across all social work services. Services are in crisis which requires our concentrated effort. Simultaneously we’re required to meet strategic and legislative demands of The Promise, National Child Protection Guidance, ACR, UNCRC etc. Recent ASP inspection meant additional demands on time of already stretched managers… and in my view, served to exacerbate risk in an already in-extremis situation.” (Survey 2022)

The report also surfaces consistent themes about 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.

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 thrive. This report provides 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.