Social workers ready to create change, report finds

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Social workers ready to create change, report finds

SOCIAL WORKERS want the power to change how the profession is presented, structured and supported, a report commissioned by Social Work Scotland has found.

Following on from the ‘Setting the Bar’ report published in June 2022, Social Work Scotland commissioned further focus groups to understand more about the issues raised by the initial research, and to hear ideas from the workforce on the changes they would make.

‘Setting the Bar 2: Taking the wheel’ finds that social workers are enthused at the impact of the original Setting the Bar report, which has encouraged employers and regulators to sit up and take notice of issues inhibiting social workers from fulfilling their roles. Social workers want to be part of generating the change for the profession, identifying solutions.

Four focus groups were held, generating a variety of proposals and suggestions, which range from the short to the long term, and cover all levels of leadership, from personal to organisational. These cover five key ‘spokes’ of the wheel:

  • promoting a better understanding of social work,
  • challenging unreasonable expectations,
  • creating a positive working environment,
  • better support and preparation for the role, and
  • changing the way we talk about social work.

Ben Farrugia, Director of Social Work Scotland said: “It’s so heartening to see people’s passion for the profession reflected in this report. It’s yet more evidence that social workers want to work in a way consistent with their values, enabled to do the preventative, relationship-based work that improves people’s lives and strengthens communities.

“At a time when we hear so much about crisis, social workers are continuing to make a positive difference on a day-to-day basis. The more we can help the profession, the more they can assist families and individuals in need of support.”

Many of the suggestions in the report can be implemented swiftly. Social Work Scotland will be leading conversations with partners and social work leaders to make that happen, alongside longer-term developments which will form part of the new National Social Work Agency, identified as part of the proposed National Care Service.


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. 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.
  • A Setting the Bar 2 briefing from Social Work Scotland, the full report and appendices are available here:
  • The first Setting the Bar report 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.
  • The original report drew 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 follow-up report was based on 4 focus groups, and was commissioned from the same independent researchers, Dr Emma Miller and Dr Karen Barrie.