Aberdeen’s social work wins praise for ‘profound’ change

Aberdeen City Council’s social work department has undergone “significant and profound” change in the three years since it was ordered to take urgent action to address major failings, inspectors have found.

The Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA) delivered a positive assessment of improvements at the local authority in a report published yesterday.

The regulator made 23 recommendations for change in May 2008 in a stinging report which it described as “extremely unfavourable” at the time. The findings shocked the council when they were announced unexpectedly at a public inquiry into the running of the local authority, held by the Accounts Commission watchdog.

It led to the appointment of troubleshooter Philip Cotterill and eventual restructuring of the council, including the return of a dedicated social work director and committee of councillors.

Swia published its second follow-up inspection of the council team yesterday.

In the report, Jo Harrison, the agency’s lead inspector, said: “Social care and wellbeing had undergone profound change since our performance inspection and follow up report.

“This remained an ongoing process. The permanent senior management team had only been fully in place since May 2010.

“The period had seen a further embedding of defined lines of accountability and decision-making, a strong sense of professional social work identity and a more open approach to partnership working.”

The findings were welcomed by the council’s social work director Fred McBride last night.

“The extensive improvements made are testament to the hard work of staff,” he said. “There are still challenges ahead but I am confident that social work will continue to improve.”

Social work committee convener Councillor Jim Kiddie said: “The social work service in Aberdeen has been through some very challenging times over the last three years so I am delighted to see recognition of the positive improvements made.

“This is clear evidence that social work in Aberdeen is bouncing back under the strong leadership of Fred McBride and his senior management team.”

Opposition Labour councillor Willie Young also acknowledged the hard work of staff, but also highlighted concerns raised by Swia about progress in the learning disability service, and the support for young people who return to the city having been in care placements elsewhere. “It is evident from the report that the deep cuts imposed by the SNP/Lib Dem administration are having an impact on service delivery,” he said.