Changing Lives: Report of the 21st Century Social Work Review

Report of the recommendations made by the 21st Century Social Work Review Group for the future of social services in Scotland.


William Roe - Chair photo

William Roe - Chair

In the summer of 2004 I was handed a challenging brief by Scottish Ministers, to chair the 21st Century Social Work Review. The review group was asked to take a fundamental look at all aspects of social work and make recommendations on how services should be developed to meet the future needs of Scotland's people.

I am delighted to present Changing Lives. This report is the culmination of 12 months of intensive work which has taken us across the length and breadth of Scotland. The range of opinion and evidence we've needed to consider has been vast. I would like to record my warmest thanks and appreciation to everyone who helped us in our work.

We have listened to the views of people who use and deliver social work services and to many other professionals and organisations. We have seen examples of excellent practice as well as much that gives us cause for concern.

We've considered research, evidence of best practice and views from leading opinion makers, people who use services and their carers and from the general public. We have debated the big issues that affect not only social work, but all public services. We have considered the implications of a changing population, of changing expectations and of an increasingly fragmented society.

Throughout our work, the evidence we have considered has been remarkably consistent in its messages. We can therefore draw our conclusions, and the recommendations flowing from them, with confidence.

Our choice of Changing Lives as a title reflects the very strong and consistent messages of the need for transformational change. Social work is life-changing work. But now, at the start of the 21st century, social work itself needs to change so that it can match our country's expectations for high quality, accessible, responsive and personalised services. In the four decades since the present pattern of social work services was created, our society has changed out of all recognition. Looking forward 20 years, we see a Scotland that will change yet further and faster. Social work services will need to match that pace of change, in what they do, how they are led, organised and delivered, and how they contribute to improving the well-being of people and communities.

Our lives are changing: we are becoming increasingly well informed and demanding consumers, yet our changing lives and circumstances present increasingly complex problems in a fragmented and ageing society.

The lives of people who use services and their carers need to change, giving them a stronger role in the way services are designed and delivered. We will expect services which are personalised to meet our needs and aspirations, where solutions to our problems are co-produced with professional workers.

Partnerships between social work services and other public, private and voluntary agencies need to change: Social work services alone cannot solve society's problems. We need to harness all our resources and expertise to design services around the needs of people, delivering the right outcomes for the people who use them. That means finding new ways of working that position social work services alongside the work of their partners in the public, voluntary and private sectors. Together we will need to shift the balance towards a much greater focus on preventing problems and intervening early to resolve them.

Our workforce is changing: The workforce of the future will need to work smarter, developing new roles and new ways of working, if it is to meet changing demands. Workers will need to be supported and developed by their employers to take on new responsibilities, to be innovative and to strive for excellence. We will need clear and visionary leadership at all levels to make sure that everyone's knowledge and skills are used effectively.

Technology will change our lives: Technology is not a panacea for all our problems but it offers major opportunities to re-think how we organise and deliver services. 21st century social work services will need to be at the forefront of using technologies to support their life-changing work.

In Changing Lives we set out a new direction for social work services in Scotland based on the strong core values of inclusiveness and meeting the whole needs of individuals and families. We seek to equip social work services to rise to the challenge of supporting and protecting our most vulnerable people and communities in the early part of the 21st century.

Social work has a bright and exciting future. Changing Lives gives us a once in a generation opportunity to deliver the kind of social work services Scotland needs.

Putting our recommendations into practice will not be easy. It will require long term commitment and vision from the Scottish Executive, from the leaders of the profession, from all those who work in or with social work services and from the people who use services, either voluntarily or as a result of statutory orders. If fully implemented, they will change the way services are designed and delivered, enabling workers to make a fundamental difference to the lives of the individuals, families and communities they serve. They will deliver life changing services that are fit for the future. Services we can all be proud of.

William Roe - Chair
21st Century Social Work Review

Back to top