Social work in Scotland is at “a critical tipping point”, report says

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Social work in Scotland is at “a critical tipping point”, report says

SOCIAL WORKERS are experiencing ‘moral distress’, a report published today finds; and urgent action is needed to support the workforce and train and recruit new professionals.

Setting the Bar was commissioned by Social Work Scotland to look at the profession’s capacity across Scotland. The report aimed to understand if Scotland has enough social workers to work with people in the way they’re trained to, and, much like classroom size, build evidence to work out what ‘enough’ cases is for a social work professional.

It draws on existing evidence and two surveys, one of which was responded to by just over 1,500 social work professionals, nearly 25% of the 6,000 which work in the public sector.

The experiences professionals shared shows that social work is facing real challenges in rising demand and a lack of understanding of the profession, made worse by the pandemic, cuts to local authority budgets and increased administrative burdens.

Despite the frustrations, the report also documents that social workers across the profession are really committed to the values of social work, and the people they work with. Indeed, many say they couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

A spokesperson for Social Work Scotland said: “The issues raised in Setting the Bar aren’t a surprise, but they are clear evidence which helps us make a case for change.”

“It’s clear from the report that social workers want to make a difference to people, and support them as policy and legislation aims set out.

“As developments for a National Care Service progress, and we continue to embed The Promise’s recommendations in the way we work, Setting the Bar can empower leaders to be clear about what we need in order to fully realise those ambitions.”

Social Work Scotland and its members will use the evidence presented in the report in discussions with national agencies, organisations and the Scottish Government, and are working with them to address the issues highlighted.


Contact: Flora Aldridge, Communications & Engagement Manager, Social Work Scotland

Notes to editors:

  • Social Work Scotland is a membership organisation which represents leaders and managers in social work. The report was commissioned from independent researchers, Dr Emma Miller and Dr Karen Barrie.
  • A briefing from Social Work Scotland, the full report and appendices are available here:
  • Appendix 4 sets out some of the work currently in progress to address the issues facing social work; however, this is not an exclusive list and Social Work Scotland, alongside partners, will be using the evidence in Setting the Bar to have discussions with decision makers and leaders to develop national indicators and workforce supply needed to support people in Scotland.
  • Social work is a distinct profession, closely bound up with social care, and we recognise that both of these professions need investment and support to enable people to fulfil their discrete roles to the highest standards.