Social Work Services Strategic Forum minutes: March 2017

Minutes from the March 2017 meeting of the Social Work Services Strategic Forum (SWSSF).

Attendees and apologies


  • Mark McDonald (Chair), Minister for Childcare and Early Years
  • Alan Baird, Chief Social Work Adviser, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Anna Fowlie, Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
  • Katharine Ross, Scottish Care
  • Jane Devine, Social Work Scotland (SWS)
  • Elaine Torrance, Social Work Scotland
  • Helen Happer, Care Inspectorate
  • Trisha Hall, Scottish Association of Social Workers (SASW)
  • Bob Parry, Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS)
  • Rikki Iversholt, IRISS (observer)
  • Michelle Miller, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE)
  • Claire Lightowler, Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice
  • Caroline Johnstone, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Stephen Smellie, Unison
  • Karyn McCluskey, Community Justice Scotland
  • Dave Scott, Community Justice Scotland
  • Susan Kelso, Allied Health Professionals Unit, SG
  • Jane Johnstone, Professional Social Work Adviser, SG
  • Linda Pollock, Deputy Director, Community Justice, SG
  • Jamie MacDougall, Deputy Director, Care, Support and Rights, SG
  • Christina Naismith, Lead for Integration - Strategic Commissioning, SG
  • Jane Mackenzie, Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser (OCSWA), SG
  • Shona MacPherson, OCSWA, SG

Guest Presenter

  • Grant Hughes, Health Workforce, SG


  • Shirley Rogers, Director, Health Workforce SG
  • Fiona McQueen, Chief Nursing Officer, SG
  • Donald Macaskill, Scottish Care
  • Annie Gunner Logan, Coalition of Care and Support Providers (CCPS)
  • Trish McCulloch, higher education institutions (HEIs) representative / Dundee University
  • Jacqui Lunday Johnstone, Chief Medical Professions Officer, SG
  • Olivia McLeod, Director, Children and Families, SG

Items and actions

1. Welcome, introductions and apologies

The Minister welcomed everyone to the meeting and noted that it was the last attendance at the Forum for Alan Baird, SG Chief Social Work Adviser as his secondment into the role would finish in April 2017. The Minister expressed his thanks to Alan, on behalf of the Forum, for all his work in developing and progressing the Vision and Strategy and all his contributions in wider contexts.

2. Note of previous meeting – 13 December 2016

Any corrections to the note were made by correspondence in advance of the meeting. All other items were either covered on the Agenda or would be brought to a future Forum meeting.

Under matters arising, Jane Mackenzie updated the Forum on the timelines in regard to the Review of the Social Work Degree, noting that the Review had reached its conclusions and that work was underway to scope and investigate issues in regard to implementation of those recommendations which were not already underway or already of scope of the SSSC to action. The wider topics where further projects will be required include the proposals re: an assessed year for Newly Qualified Social Workers and a new approach to partnerships in supporting social work learning.

3. 2030 Nursing Vision

The Minister noted that due to illness of the presenter this Agenda item would not be taken and would be brought back to a future Forum meeting.

Specific action strands

4. Promoting Public Understanding

Scottish Social Services Awards

Shona MacPherson updated the Forum on the Scottish Social Services Awards, noting that 155 entries had been received with entries from across the whole sector. It was agreed that this was an excellent response level given the newness of the Awards. A short paper was tabled which showed the breakdown of entries across the categories. Shona noted that Judging Panels were meeting during March to shortlist the applications which would then go to a special meeting of the Strategic Forum in May to choose the winners.

Social Services Expo

Shona reminded the Forum that the Awards ceremony on 13 June at Crieff Hydro would be preceded by a Social Services Expo at the same venue in advance of the Social Work Scotland Annual Conference which would take place on 14 and 15 June. The expo would be a free event open for practitioners to attend. Forum members were reminded that the deadline to submit workshop proposals for the Expo event was 17 March 2017.


  • OCSWA to reissue the call for workshops for Forum members to submit workshop proposals by 17 March 2017.
NB – No other Action Strands reported at this meeting as the main agenda item was the exercise to refresh the Implementation Plan

Implementation Plan

5. Implementation Plan: Outturn from April 2015 to April 2017 – paper one

Jane Mackenzie explained that paper one was a draft Outturn Report up to end March 2017 to reflect progress made on the actions in the first two years of the Strategy. It had been produced from the regular progress reports at each Forum meeting; discussions on progress at the Forum workshop in November 2016; and subsequent feedback from members and discussion with Action strand leads.

Jane noted that the Outturn Report would be circulated again after the Forum to enable members to provide any further written feedback if any members think that anything in the progress column is not correct or is not a full and accurate reflection the progress which has been made over the last two years. OCSWA will then publish the Outturn Report as part of the set of Forum papers as a record of progress made to date.


  • OCSWA to recirculate the Vision and Strategy Implementation: Outturn Report for April 2015 to March 2017 to Forum members for final comments.

6. Draft Implementation Plan as refreshed: April 2017 onwards – paper two

Jane Mackenzie introduced paper two as the draft of the refreshed Implementation Plan to take forward for 2017 to 2020. She reminded members that this had been the main topic of discussion at the November 2016 workshop and adjustments had been made which reflected the discussion at that meeting. It had also been developed building on discussions which OCSWA had held with all of the Action Strand leads. Jane explained the structure of the draft document noting that it contained continuing actions, new actions and actions where the wording had been adjusted or amended to better reflect the current position and needs. The Minister invited Action Strand leads and Forum members to work through the draft and provide any general comments or points of detail.

Points made in the discussion:

  • There was discussion about how best to communicate the work of the Forum and the progress being made, noting that members had examples of where the Vision and Strategy was not known about but it would be useful for it to be. It was agreed that, once the refreshed Implementation Plan was complete, consideration would be given to wider dissemination – to include for example the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICE) and the Scottish Parliament Health & Sport Committee. Action for OCSWA.
  • The work of the Fair Work Convention (FWC) in setting up a project on the Social Care Workforce was noted. The Minister suggested that this topic might be usefully included as future item for the Forum Agenda. Action for members of the Forum who are also on the FWC Social Care Working Group.
  • The critical importance of effective supervision was noted and the need for appropriate supervision particularly within the context of an integrated workforce. It was also noted that it is more complex than just improving supervision – wider issues impact on this such as complex assessment processes which then impact on staff time for supervision. Link also to wider issue of workload across the whole sector was noted including Home Care workers. Supervision is equally important in these parts of the sector too – not just a social work issue. Frontline workers will need support in the run up to registration so the issue of workloads and supervision is clearly an important one for the Forum to consider. Minister noted that perhaps the June Forum could have a look at some early thinking on this. Action for Forum members to consider whether this topic is adequately addressed in the draft of the refreshed Implementation Plan.
  • Another issue noted was challenges with IT systems and processes which can contribute to the wider workload problems. Noted links with development of Digital Health and Social Care Strategy. Action for OCSWA to ensure engagement with relevant leads for this at future forum meeting.
  • Claire Lightowler noted that one of the Actions in the Evidence workstrand is about ‘learning from improvement’ so there is perhaps the opportunity to have a piece of work to focus on these issues. Action for Evidence Action Lead and co-workers to consider.
  • Noted that on page six of the Draft a new action on the Service User voice had been added as this was a strong message from the November workshop. Recognition of the need to explore all sources of this – including for example information held by the Care Inspectorate. The Minister noted that there is more to be done around explaining this action and in looking at the data that is available – how do we use this to give us a national picture, to get a more consistent understanding of this issue.
  • Jane Devine noted that there were no new or amended actions under the Public Understanding Action strand as the group supporting this work was awaiting the findings from the Public Understanding research before proposing any need to revise Actions. She also gave the meeting an informal flavour of some of the initial findings from the project and noted that the research findings would be brought to the June meeting of the Forum meeting to enable the Forum to have a full discussion on the subject. Jane Mackenzie noted that it might also be useful to bring any proposals for changes to the actions under this action strand also to the June Forum meeting. Action for Jane Devine/SWS and the action strand supporting group.


  • OCSWA to recirculate the Draft Implementation Plan for April 2017 onwards to Forum members for final comments.

Cross-cutting developments

7. National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan

The Strategy recognises the very broad landscape of developments within which it sits and with which it needs to make links. Efforts are made to incorporate relevant discussions at meetings of the Forum in addition to discussion on the specific actions which the Forum is taking forward. For this meeting the cross-cutting topic discussed was the SG Programme for Government commitment to develop a National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan.

Grant Hughes from the lead SG policy team provided a short introduction updating the Forum on progress with the development of a National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan and the steps which had been taken to date. Current intention is for the Plan to be published towards the end of May. Grant emphasised that it was intended to be the first step in the journey which would be an iterative one. He also emphasised that it was intended to be reflective of the inter-dependence of the two sectors while recognising the different positions on governance etc.. He noted that it is not intended to be solely an NHS document and confirmed that Ministers are keen that it takes a whole system approach. Grant also gave a brief indication of the range of other settings, groups etc. where he had been involved in similar discussions. The Minister invited Forum members to provide comments/questions.

Points made in the Discussion:

  • It was noted that COSLA have been very much involved in the developments to date in regard to the Plan and had met with the Cabinet Secretary to discuss.
  • The Plan was noted as being timely and a helpful way to try and address the situation across the whole system. Forum Members are very keen on exploring career pathways and for greater collaboration across the two sectors.
  • It was noted that the references to the voluntary sector in the consultation document were very few while there appeared to be even less mention of the independent sector – this is particularly significant given that a large proportion of care of older people is provided by the independent sector.
  • The topic of Personal Assistants/personalisation agenda was noted as the workforce in this context has been increasing – is this another dimension of the workforce which should be included in the Plan?
  • The question was asked about what we mean by ‘social care’. The social services sector comprises nearly 200,000 employees but not all are in social care. For example – are the criminal justice and childcare workforces included in the scope of the Plan? If not then the Plan needs to be clearer on the scope of the workforce which it is covering.
  • It was noted that Social Work Scotland’s Executive Committee felt that the social care element of the Plan still felt like a bit of an ‘add-on’.
  • The section on challenges for the workforce should also include the impact of austerity, zero hours contracts etc on the workforce.
  • A range of issues had been raised at the most recent Integration Joint Board (IJB) Chief Officers Group including non-alignment of terms and conditions, differences in managing budgets etc. Need to be clear on the impact these issues also have on managing the workforce.
  • It was suggested that the document would be helpful if it were to help streamline things and not become another layer that sits on top of other plans, otherwise it just adds another layer of complexity.

Grant thanked Forum members for their helpful comments. He reminded them that the current consultation would end on 28 March 2017 and he encouraged all Forum members to submit their views.

Meeting dates for 2017

  • Wednesday 7 June, 10am-noon, St Andrews House
  • Wednesday 13 Sept, 10am-noon, St Andrews House
  • Wednesday 6 Dec, 10am-noon, St Andrews House



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