The Opportunity Of A Lifetime…

Deputy Minister for Education and Young People, Robert Brown,  urges Care Appointments readers to grasp the opportunity of a lifetime that the implementation of ‘Changing Lives’ represents to strengthen and improve Scottish social work services.

“This has already been an exciting year for social work services. A year when we have seen the Social Work Inspection Agency get into gear. In February, the Executive published Changing Lives which set out a compelling and challenging vision for the future of social work services.

“In May, we established the National Social Work Services Forum to provide a nationally recognised source of informed opinion on all matters relating to social work services and to inform the new 21st Century Social Work Cabinet Delivery Group.

“Last month we hosted the first annual national conference for social work practitioners so that those working at the front line can influence and lead change. And we published the Changing Lives Implementation Plan which sets out the milestones, funding proposals and actions required to deliver social work services that are fit to respond to increasingly complex needs in Scotland in the 21st Century.

“Changing Lives delivered three main messages and challenges:
– Social work services don’t have all the answers, so we need to build capacity to deliver personalised services
– We don’t make the best use of social work skills, so we need to build the capacity of the workforce
– Doing more of the same won’t work, so we need to build capacity for sustainable change.

“So to transform social work, we need major cultural change. We need a concerted effort and strong visionary leadership at both national and local levels and across all public services. We need to get better at working collaboratively with a clear emphasis on learning. And we need to strengthen professional responsibility and accountability.

“The Implementation Plan translates the aspirations of Changing Lives into five change programmes:
– Performance Improvement
– Service Development
– Workforce Development
– Practice Governance
– Leadership and Management

“These programmes will be led by senior people in social work services who will draw together people with vision, enthusiasm and ideas from across the public, voluntary and private sectors. They are action focused programmes which will take the recommendations and turn them into concrete actions.

“The aspirations of Changing Lives chime with the principles behind public service reform. That transformed services will be even more user focused and personalised. They will be organised around users and citizens needs and aspirations. Public services will drive up quality and encourage innovation.

“They will be efficient, productive and focused on outcomes. They will be joined up, working increasingly in partnership with others and they will be accountable to those they are there to serve.

“So personalised services are not an option. There is an obligation on us all to ensure that our services meet the needs and aspirations of service users and carers. Yes, there are many challenges around delivering personalised services but there are also real opportunities. Not just across social work services but across health and community care, education, justice, community and housing services.

“Personalisation is at the heart of social work’s holistic values and is essentially the long-term goal of Changing Lives and of course, public service reform.

“During the course of the social work review, users and carers told us very clearly that the person must be at the heart of everything and they shouldn’t have to fit into existing services.

“We know that good social work is done with people, not to them or for them. We know that people’s aspirations and expectations are changing and that they will increasingly expect more choice, flexibility and accessible services.

“We know that the shift from institutional to home care continues to present opportunities and challenges to change the way we deliver services. And we know that traditional family structures that would previously have provided support in crises are less readily available.

“There is growing evidence to suggest that users who are more involved in shaping the services they need are more likely to take responsibility to ensure that the support they receive is successful.

“In order to deliver personalised services I see that users and carers would be active participants in shaping, creating, and where possible, delivering services. The delivery of services may involve both paid and unpaid carers, professionals and non-professionals.

{mospagebreak}“Such services would be delivered locally by a range of agencies, working collaboratively, to make the best use of everyone’s skills. Personalisation would become the norm and would be delivered systematically across public, voluntary and private services.

“To achieve this, there are, of course, many policy implications. The Executive will continue to work in a participative and collaborative way with social work services and other agencies and professions to develop the right tools and strategies to enable service users and their carers to participate in the design and delivery of services.

“We will consider the financial implications of personalisation and move towards simpler and more flexible funding arrangements.

“We will, with our range of partners, take a fundamental look at how we plan and commission services so that there is greater choice, flexibility and accessibility for individuals.

“We are in no doubt about the complexity of delivering on the aspirations of Changing Lives, not just for social work, but across all public services.

“Transformation will take time, commitment and leadership at all levels of organisations, not just from the top. Ministers don’t have all the answers. The expertise in social work services exists out there with you, the people who are already delivering services.

“Everyone with an interest in the future of social work services can lead change. Everyone has the capacity to share ideas and learning. So everyone must grasp this opportunity to influence the way services are delivered in their organisations. That’s why discussion and debate must continue at local as well as national levels. The Executive will do all it can to support this and lead change.

“The Cabinet Delivery Group of Ministers representing education and young people, health and community care, communities, justice and finance and public services, will provide a real opportunity to use the principles of public service reform to ensure coherence of policy direction and implementation. This will ensure that the Executive joins up its policy making on social work services, rationalising policy and streamlining delivery.

“We will change the law, with support from Parliament. We will do this so that legislation embeds national priorities, governance arrangements, personalisation and the framework within which social work will deliver services.

“The National Social Work Services Forum, for the first time in Scotland, brings together a broad range of stakeholders with an interest in social work services. Its remit is to provide a nationally recognised source of informed opinion on all matters relating to the delivery of social work services, in order to enable strategic planning and direction.

“This is a powerful group, representing the statutory, voluntary and private sectors and it will be chaired by my Ministerial colleague, Peter Peacock.

“Shadowing this forum will be a Users and Carers Forum which will be facilitated by the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability. This will ensure that service users and carers directly influence the shape and detail of the implementation process at a national level.

“We are encouraging and supporting local authority areas to set up their own local practitioners forums so that those working at the front line can influence and lead change. And the five change programmes will draw on expertise across Scotland and encourage those with vision and ideas to get involved.

“While the focus remains on ensuring that we get the most out of the £2.4 billion we currently spend on social work services, we have announced the first tranche of money to support the change programme – £4 million this year and a further £11 million next year. Further resources will follow in the next three years and this will be influenced by the progress and the extent of engagement achieved.

“My colleagues and I have been genuinely pleased at the way in which Changing Lives has been received. We know that those working in social work services make difficult decisions every day and do incredible work to support our most vulnerable people.

“The User and Carer Panel that informed the review said this:
“We expect services to make a positive difference to our lives. We are people first. The outcomes we want include having power and control, being able to take risks and contribute to society. This means that there needs to be a shift in power away from people who commission and provide services to service users and carers”

“My message to Care Appointments readers is this: take the opportunity that Changing Lives offers to drive change forward. To build services that we can be truly proud of. And to work towards services that are truly personalised to people’s needs”