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Sector responds to proposals for National Care Service

CELCIS has raised concerns over the inclusion of children’s social work and children’s services in a National Care Service.

As we reported last month, the Scottish government is proposing a National Care Service incorporating children and adult social work to “to consistently deliver high quality services to every single person who needs them, across Scotland”.

While the assumption is that as a minimum it will cover adult social care services, the government wants to consider the merits of extending the scope of a National Care Service to oversee all age groups and a wider range of needs including:

  • Children and young people
  • Community justice
  • Alcohol and drug services
  • Social work

The National Care Service would, the Scottish government says, ensure national minimum standards, improve consistency, and raise the quality of services across the country.

However, because the implications are significant, and the complexity of the challenges and problems is not fully understood or addressed in the consultation, CELCIS is unable to take any definitive position about the inclusion of children’s social work and children’s services in a National Care Service at this stage.

“We recommend further exploration, scoping and an options appraisal to ensure that a structural change on this scale would be the right decision for addressing current barriers to improvement and would be in the best interests of children and their families,” said a statement from CELCIS, a leading improvement and innovation centre in Scotland, improving children’s lives by supporting people and organisations to drive long-lasting change in the services they need.

CELCIS said that while the organisation can identify both the potential benefits and the potential risks of the proposals, further exploration is needed.

Their response highlights that the incorporation of proposals to re-structure elements of children’s services was unexpected and warn that much of the consultation does not appear to “demonstrate a full appreciation for or understanding of what is relevant to children’s lives, their families, nor the existent policy frameworks and complex practice environment”.

Furthermore, the consultation does not reflect the current approach that the prevention and early intervention pathways of GIRFEC depend upon, which is the close integration between health, education, social care, and social work.

CELCIS also states that much of the language and terminology used in the consultation is predicated on ‘adult care’ and therefore does not reflect the specific terminology and understanding of ‘care’ relating to children’s lives. Services for children and families differ significantly from how this is understood and works in the context of ‘adult care’.

The response also outlines how the proposed scope of the National Care Service excludes the early years and education services that are fundamental to children’s wellbeing and are essential for the continuity of support built into the Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) model.

“The proposals offer some real opportunities that merit further exploration and consideration. The consultation is both extensive and technical, necessarily spanning a range of subjects and factors concerning the social care needs of all Scotland’s people. There are also critical omissions in content and detail that make it more difficult to assess the potential benefits, risks, and impact of the proposals at this time,” said the response.

Claire Burns, Director (Acting) of CELCIS, concluded: “The proposal of a National Care Service provides another important opportunity to consider what it will take to get it right for children in need of care and protection, their families and carers. But this conversation must include what so many have already started or committed to in realising The Promise of the Independent Care Review and what we know has to happen to implement improvements that make real, transformative and meaningful change.”

COSLA has also raised concerns about the inclusion of children and young people in the National Care Service.

COSLA’s Children and Young People Spokesperson Councillor Stephen McCabe: “The lack of evidence and data to justify the inclusion of Children’s Services in a National Care Service is very concerning particularly given the fact that no account is taken of what the proposed changes would mean for children, young people and their families.

“The inclusion of Children’s Services within the Scottish Government’s National Care Service Consultation goes far beyond the scope of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care.

“The Scottish Government’s focus in the coming years should be on ‘Keeping The Promise’ and supporting and delivering better outcomes for our children, young people and families, not on costly and time intensive structural reform which neither demonstrates nor evidences how it would improve the lives of children and families,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) has called for the creation of an “accessible and trusted service, delivered by respected and supported professionals” in their response to the consultation on a National Care Service.

The proposals have been hailed by the Association as the “biggest reforms to social work since the 1968 Social Work (Scotland) Act”. 

National Director of the Association Alison Bavidge said: “Over the last 10 weeks, we have engaged extensively with our members, people who use social work services, their carers and other key stakeholders. People who use services tell us the current system isn’t working. Social workers are not doing the work they came into the profession to do. We are at a stage where the social contract between the profession and those it serves is at best strained. Government now needs to decide whether we continue this trajectory, or whether we redirect.”

SASW carried out a survey on a National Care Service and 70% of respondents want change, with almost two thirds of those supporting a National Care Service.

Key messages that emerged from the survey outlining what respondents want include:

  • A social model of care and support based in human rights, equalities, and inclusion, with a focus on equalities including anti-racism, the impact of poverty and disadvantage.
  • Social work should be an accessible, trusted and stigma-free public service.
  • Social workers must be able to practice in early intervention and prevention to improve outcomes, return balanced caseloads and contribute to ensuring that social work and social care are attractive and sought-after career choices.
  • Children’s services, adult services and justice services must be located together to ensure effective support to people when they need it at all life stages.
  • Changes to structures and governance arrangements must simplify the experience for people using services and those who support them.

Alison Bavidge concluded: “Social workers want to be able to use our full range of skills and experience to build strong communities, and support individuals and families before they reach crisis. We particularly welcome proposals on a National Social Work Agency, and view this as a key opportunity to protect the future of social work in Scotland.  We recognise that, whatever the decisions by Government, change will bring opportunities but also the potential for fracture and disruption to existing support services and partnerships across the sector; a sector which has just emerged from the experience of the pandemic, as well as a significant restructure only five years ago. SASW is committed to working in partnership with key stakeholders and to engaging positively with the Government programme set to follow in the new year.”

SASW Consultation Response

CELCIS Consultation Response

Working Together For Children

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