Trauma Responsive Social Work Services Expert Advisory Group: minutes: January 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 31 January 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • individuals providing social work services across Scotland from various practice areas
  • Resilience Learning Partnership
  • Scottish Government (SG)

Items and actions


This was the first meeting of the Trauma Informed Social Work Services Expert Advisory Group. The purpose of this first meeting was to host introductions, sign off the Terms of Reference, discuss the current status of Scotland’s social work services and to discuss what work is needed to ensure Scotland’s social work services are trauma informed.


The meeting began by the Chair welcoming all on the call to the group, and asked for individuals to introduce themselves by sharing what their role and practice area is, and about their interest in trauma.

Terms of reference

As the first item on the agenda, the group approved the terms of reference.

Presentation on trauma informed social work services key considerations

The Chair progressed to the next item which was a presentation from the Professional Social Work Adviser for Scottish Government (PSWA)

Key Points raised during the presentation include:

  • SG has gained agreement with Ministers to formulate and share a national strategy on trauma informed practice and adverse childhood experiences. Scottish Government will also commission the production of a quality indicators framework for trauma informed services
  • there is no agreed “definition” in Scotland of what is considered a trauma informed organisation and we are still developing a shared understanding of this
  • there are pockets of trauma enhanced social work across Scotland. We need to drive to improve this and make sure there is a consistent standard of trauma informed social work across Scotland
  • PSWA shared six things needed to ensure social work services are trauma informed:
    • leadership
    • workforce skills and training
    • power sharing and co-production
    • environment, policies and systems
    • worker wellbeing and support
    • trauma focused data and outcomes
  • PSWA shared the four areas that improvement will need to be focused on:
    • education, qualification requirements, newly qualified social workers and continuous professional learning
    • workforce skills and training
    • systems of support for worker wellbeing
    • support for leaders implementing organisational change: embedding environmental, policy, system and practice changes
  • PSWA highlighted proposed actions to progress this work at pace

Discussion, questions and reflections

Discussion, questions and reflections raised from the group after this presentation are as follows:

  • it would be beneficial to build in trauma training into social workers’ first year of practice through modular learning, and that it may be beneficial to have trauma informed interpreters for the many migrants coming into Scotland to work
  • the importance of ensuring that the trauma learning is sustained within practice. It was also discussed how the train the trainers programme has been helpful in some local areas in creating sustainability, and the benefit of bringing individuals with trauma training experience into university courses to give individuals practice experience as well as academic learning. PSWA confirmed that some universities do this already and there may be scope to build more consistency in courses across Scotland
  • a query was raised as to whether there was an opportunity for reflective group supervision on an ongoing basis that is facilitated by a trainer. Some members shared their experiences of having fortnightly facilitated reflective practice with their multidisciplinary teams and that they have not encountered this elsewhere working in social work
  • the question of whether there was a plan to define what is a trauma informed organisation? Concerns were raised about employers developing this training now, only for the goalpost to shift later. There was discussion had on the prospect of certain organisations thinking about creating a trauma informed accreditation similar to living wage employer accreditation. It was also highlighted that a lot of organisations say they are trauma informed but this only applies to their customers and not towards their own staff
  • reflecting on experience in perinatal, bringing in standards ensures the work is prioritised 
  • concerns that all frontline services are tired and that we need to take care of staff to offer the best service they can
  • PSWA highlighted that taking care of staff is key. That’s why it is important that this work is not just a training programme but is an implementation support programme
  • highlighting how certain local authorities have had issues accessing enhanced and specialised training
  • members expressed that they are more likely to be freed for training if it is government funded and will not incur a cost for local authorities
  • recognise there is an impact of vicarious trauma on social workers, especially through the pandemic. The importance of quality reflective practice supervision that incorporates space for discussion about impact on workers of trauma work was highlighted

Any other business

The Chair thanked all for their valuable input into the meeting and confirmed that the group are due to meet again on 31 March 2022.


For more information on this group, please visit Trauma Responsive Social Work Services Expert Advisory Group.

For more information on this programme, please visit Trauma Responsive Social Work Services.

Back to top