Social Work Services Strategic Forum minutes: December 2017

Minutes of the meeting of the Social Work Services Strategic Forum (SWSSF) held on 12 December 2017.

Attendees and apologies


  • Maree Todd, Minister for Childcare and Early Years (Chair)
  • Iona Colvin, Chief Social Work Adviser, SG
  • Anna Fowlie, SSSC
  • Jane Devine, Social Work Scotland
  • Susan Taylor, Social Work Scotland
  • Stephen Smellie, UNISON
  • Trisha Hall, SASW
  • Karyn McCluskey, Community Justice Scotland
  • Rikke Iversholt, IRISS
  • Caroline Johnstone, Cosla
  • Claire Lightowler, CYCJ
  • Karen Hedges, Scottish Care
  • Christina Naismith, Lead for Integration-Strategic Commissioning, SG


  • Jane Mackenzie, OCSWA, SG
  • Shona MacPherson, OCSWA, SG
  • Paul Jamie, OCSWA, SG


  • Helen Happer, Care Inspectorate
  • Annie Gunner Logan, CCPS
  • Michael Chalmers, Director Children & Families
  • Donald Macaskill, Scottish Care
  • Trish McCulloch, HEIs Representative/Dundee University
  • Michelle Miller, SOLACE

Items and actions

1. Welcome, introductions and apologies

The Minister welcomed everyone to the meeting which was her first as Chair and noted apologies.

2. Note of previous meeting - 12 September 2017

The note had been circulated for comment and was agreed without any amendments. All actions had either been completed, were on the Agenda or would be brought to a future Forum meeting.

Specific workstrands

3. Promoting Public Understanding

Public Understanding Action Strand Next Steps - Paper 1

Jane Devine presented a Paper which invited the Forum to consider the next steps for the promoting public understanding workstrand. This followed the Forum-sponsored research into public understanding of the sector (available on the Social Work Scotland Website). The paper asked whether there was merit in looking in more detail at perceptions of specific parts of the sector, what more could be done to respond to the apparent confidence issue within the sector and whether there were specific actions that should be considered around the media’s role in fuelling perceptions.

Points made in discussion:

  • The research was noted as being a useful opportunity to stimulate debate across the sector and providing an opportunity for sector leaders across the country to consider how the findings relate to perceptions amongst their own workforce.
  • IRISS planning to hold a Celebration of Care Event in 2018 which could be an opportunity to discuss the findings further with the workforce.
  • The suggestion was made to tie the research findings in with plans for events in 2018 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Social Work (Scotland) Act.
  • There will be different issues in different parts of the sector which would be worth exploring more.
  • It was suggested that a round table discussion with people from the media would be useful, as they often say it can be difficult to get social workers to speak to the press when issues arise.
  • It was suggested that the research findings should be linked with the forthcoming Health & Social Care Workforce Plan Part 2 and its specific recommendation for a recruitment campaign for the sector. It was noted that it might be useful to do the further research into different parts of the sector in advance of any recruitment campaign.
  • Iona Colvin noted that there was further work to be done in the new year around the H&SC Workforce Plan and the actions in it. She agreed it would be useful to bring all partners together to think about activities around the 50 years since the Social Work Act which could complement the workforce recommendations in the Plan.
  • It was suggested that the Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser could collate information on any events partners are planning next year around the 50th anniversary of the Social Work Act. This would enable the Forum to better co-ordinate events, perhaps under a shared banner which would enable us to promote a programme of events throughout the year.
  • The Minister noted that it was important that the sector was also involved in activities to recognise 70 years of the NHS since social care is such an integral part of what the NHS is delivering.
  • Scottish Care planning to have a recruitment event in the Spring 2018. Karen Hedges noted that some social care wprkers often don’t identify with the wider social work profession so this factor needs to be taken into consideration.
  • It was also noted that people in the sector often don’t “champion” their contribution. There is a role for everyone to consistently project positive messages to the workforce about its importance and value. We need to boost the confidence of the workforce and value and promote the job they do.
  • The Forum agreed the importance of recognising successful practice and ensuring that employers find the space for people to do this. It was noted that there is an important role for leadership in ensuring teams have the time to identify success.
  • The importance of the Scottish Social Services Awards was also emphasised in recognising good practice and in encouraging teams to take the time to identify their successes.


  • All to send details of any planned events in 2018 on 50 years of the Social Work Act to OCSWA for collation.
  • Jane Devine to work up a research proposal for further work to explore public perceptions within different parts of the sector. This to be shared electronically with Forum members in early 2018.

Scottish Social Services Awards 2018 - Verbal Update

Shona MacPherson provided a brief update on the 2018 Scottish Social Service Awards. The application website was live with a closing date of January 31st 2018 for applications. All Forum members asked to do a further push to their members in the new year. The Award ceremony will be held on 6 June 2018 at Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh and will be hosted by Chelsea Cameron, winner of the Young Scot Award in 2017.


  • Forum members to continue to promote and encourage applications to the Awards through their networks, social media etc.

4. Improving Use of Evidence

Update on Implementation - Paper 2

Claire Lightowler presented a paper which updated the Forum on the progress that had been made on actions in the Improving Evidence workstrand. Forum members were also asked to use the IRISS Knowledge Suite which provides links to organisations that can provide evidence on specific policy topics, and provide feedback of its usefulness. The Forum was also asked to agree to the bringing together of the management/governance of the Service Quality and Performance actions with the Improving Use of Evidence actions.

Points made in discussion:

  • Trisha Hall noted that the IRISS Insight on Gypsy Travellers was a useful example of partnership working and a good way of capturing evidence of progress being made in this area.
  • The question was raised as to whether the merger of the two sets of actions would reduce the focus on the importance of scrutiny in improving performance. Would be important to ensure that this did not happen.
  • Iona Colvin noted that the Care Inspectorate is developing a new inspection framework which should ensure that importance of scrutiny remains and is enhanced. She suggested that the Care Inspectorate present an item on this to a future Forum meeting. It was noted that the output of inspection activity will continue to inform what the Forum does.
  • The question was asked about whether social care staff can access NHS Library support and it was confirmed that this is generally the case and that engagement with NES supports this.
  • It was noted that given the policy focus around Looked After Children it would be important to involve CELCIS in this workstrand as they are an important source of resources for practitioners. Claire Lightowler agreed to consider how best to take this forward.


  • The Forum agreed to the bringing together of the management/ governance of the Improving Service Quality and Performance actions with the Improving Use of Evidence actions. Claire Lightowler and Helen Happer as action leads to agree on how this will be managed.
  • Claire Lightowler to consider CELCIS involvement and update the Forum on this at the next meeting.
  • The Care Inspectorate to be invited to a future Forum to provide an update on the new inspection framework which is being developed.

Proposed Evidence Statement - Paper 3

Claire Lightowler presented a paper proposing agreement to a shared definition of evidence and Forum members were invited to agree the suggested definition. Having taken on the role of action strand lead comparatively recently Claire had identified that having such a shared statement would be of value to the sector and to progressing the actions.

Points made in discussion:

  • Clarification was sought on who the audience was for the definition of evidence. Claire explained that it was for the Forum members and the organisations they represent, but also ideally reaching out beyond that too.
  • There was general agreement that the definition was too long. It was suggested that the first paragraph of the definition could work as a shorter explanation. The bullet points on page one of the paper could also be built on and incorporated in some way.
  • The importance of ensuring that “lived experience” was included in the definition was emphasised.
  • It is particularly important to encourage practitioner based research.
  • A general point was raised that it is often difficult for practitioners to find the time to consider evidence and learn from others given their current workloads. The point was made that we need to find ways to encourage people to make time to access evidence. It was also noted that there is a role for leadership in encouraging this.
  • Karyn McCluskey noted that the College of Policing has been looking at different definitions of evidence which might also be worth considering.


  • Claire Lightowler to note the concerns about the length of the statement and to send a revised version for the Forum’s agreement. She confirmed that there would be follow-up with members to help with considerations of how best to make use of the Evidence Statement.

Wider strategic context

5. National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan Part 2 on Social Care and planned Safe Staffing legislation

Iona Colvin gave the Forum a brief update on the National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan Part 2 due for publication before end of 2017. She noted that the Plan had been developed jointly with COSLA and would include seven recommendations covering workforce data and analysis, workforce planning guidance and tools, training, career pathways and education. She noted the potential for overlaps with some of the actions in the Vision and Strategy and suggested that it would be important to consider how the recommendations in the Workforce Plan might fit with or supersede the Forum’s Implementation Plan. It would be useful to look at this in early 2018 in order to be effective in planning the work required.

Iona also noted the plans for Safe Staffing legislation and highlighted that there would be further engagement on this with the social care sector in early 2018. The initial driver behind the legislation had been to put the use of existing nursing and midwifery workforce planning tools into legislation. The consultation in 2017 had sought views on the potential for the legislation to have a wider scope. Some of the consultation responses had suggested that consideration should be given to widening the scope of the legislation, in particular due to the context of integration - whilst recognising that different approaches would be required if other employers and their workforces were to be brought into scope of the Bill. Responses to the consultation indicated that, in general, stakeholders in the social care sector did not support the proposal to extend the scope of the legislation into the social care workforce. Dialogue on this topic had continued between the Scottish Government and social care stakeholders, including Cosla, into the later part of 2017. Jane Mackenzie noted that the SG Bill team were organising engagement events for early 2018 and were very keen to arrange more opportunities to discuss the Bill further with the social care sector and encouraged Forum members to get in touch around arranging such opportunities.

Points made in discussion:

  • It was noted that there are difficulties associated with setting specific tools into legislation which then become out of date and require further legislative change.
  • It was also noted that time is required to develop workforce planning tools that could be used by other workforces.


  • Forum members with possible stakeholder events in January/February that the Bill team could attend in order to discuss Safe Staffing legislation should let OCSWA know as soon as possible.

6. Social Work Scotland - feedback from 8 December summit

Susan Taylor gave a brief readout from the SWS Summit event which had taken place on 8th December. She noted that it had been arranged as a follow up event to the Audit Scotland Report on Social Work published in 2016. Feedback from the event had been positive and a number of themes had emerged from the discussion:

  • General concern about the level of savings required of the sector and the ability to sustain services and meet need/expectations in this context
  • How to reduce demand on services and the role of social work in reducing costs
  • The need to re-engage with the sector and to do things differently
  • The importance of social work’s role in influencing other sectors
  • Recognition that constant talking about savings isn’t how to inspire the workforce, and that people need to be inspired to do things differently
  • Clear views that motivated, inspired people will deliver better services.

The key messages from the Summit will be summarised and progressed, linking in to the Social Work Scotland Conference in June 2018.

7. Guidance on working with Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Stephen Smellie tabled recently published guidance on Refugee and Asylum Seekers in Scotland which had been jointly developed by SASW and Unison. The guidance is for frontline social workers and other organisations working with asylum seekers and refugees. Trisha Hall noted that they would be developing some events in the new year to support staff on this topic and to share good practice.

Points made in discussion:

  • Jane Devine suggested that it might be useful to have a discussion at a future Forum meeting on the impact of wider issues, such as UK Government policy on the social work services workforce.


  • Future Forum meeting to include an Agenda item on the impact of wider issues, such as UK Government policy on the social work services workforce.

Implementation progress

8. Implementation Plan for April 2017 onwards - Paper 4

Jane Mackenzie noted the updated Implementation Plan which had been circulated with the papers and invited Forum members to send any further updates for the Plan to OCSWA after the meeting. She noted that were a few actions that had yet to start any activity and invited Forum to feed back any suggestions/ideas on how to take these forward to OCSWA as soon as possible. Jane also noted that OCSWA and action strand leads would give early consideration to how best to provide future reports on implementation of actions as it might be appropriate to makes changes at this point to allow for links with other developments such as the National Health and Social Care Workforce Pan part 2.


  • OCSWA to provide an update on the reporting format at the next meeting of the Forum.

9. Next Meeting

  • Tuesday 20 March 2018, 10.00-12.00, St Andrews House, Edinburgh
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