Scottish social workers struggling due to “inadequate childcare provision”

Representative body says that recent changes announced by the Scottish Government have made it “nigh impossible” for social workers to effectively support vulnerable people alongside childcare and home-schooling responsibilities.

The Scottish Association of Social Workers (SASW) has called on the Scottish Government to exclude social worker from recent changes to childcare provision rules in the country.

With schools currently closed under the latest UK lockdown restrictions, social workers remain designated ‘key workers’ which allows them to access childcare provisions to allow to them to continue working effectively.

However, last month the Scottish Government amended the rules to say that key workers with a non-key worker partner also working from home would no longer meet the criteria for childcare provision.

This has resulted in many social workers in the country struggling to work effectively whilst providing care for their own children, says SASW.

The Association is now calling for an exemption for social workers from the two key worker rule to allow for vulnerable people to be fully supported and relieve pressure from parents.

Alison Bavidge, National Director of SASW, said that the nature of social work meant that caring for children at home presented unique and often overlooked challenged for parents.

“In recent weeks, we have had increasing reports from members who are struggling to support the vulnerable people they work with due to being unable to access adequate childcare,” said Bavidge.

“Our work is based on the relationships we build with people which need focus and real concentration when face to face, but virtual meeting spaces require social workers to listen and engage even more intensely.

“Confidentiality for people using services and the risk of social workers’ children hearing inappropriate material need to be properly considered. Whilst challenging at the best of times, social work becomes nigh impossible when having responsibilities for childcare and home-schooling at the same time.”

Former social worker, and current Coatbridge and Chryston MSP, Fulton MacGregor said he would be raising the issue with the Scottish Government.

“As a former social worker, I completely sympathise with how challenging it would be to undertake such complex, emotive work with young children present,” said MacGregor.

“I am therefore taking the matter to government to consider the possibility of a necessary exemption for social work practitioners.”

Whilst the Scottish Government is yet to respond directly, the guidance issued in January outlines the reasoning for the current state of restrictions.

“While there are differences between the current situation and the previous strict lockdown (from March 2020), it is now necessary to limit household contacts by reducing numbers attending childcare settings as much as possible while still enabling essential childcare support for key workers,” the Government says.

“Whole workforces or entire groups of staff should not be designated as key workers. Doing so would undermine the collective effort we must all make to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives during this period of strict lockdown.”

The Scottish Government recently announced plans for a phased return to school for younger primary and some secondary school pupils from the 22 February, with a review on those plans due on 16 February.

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