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National Social Work Agency will “have teeth and the ability to drive changes”

Speaking at the Scottish Association of Social Workers conference, Angela Constance MSP said the Scottish Government aimed to establish the agency next year, with it being fully operational in 2025.

30/11/23

National Social Work Agency will “have teeth and the ability to drive changes”

Social workers have been encouraged to support the creation of the National Social Work Agency in Scotland.

Speaking at the Scottish Association of Social Workers 2023 conference, Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs, urged social workers to “get behind” the proposed agency to help to “drive it forward with the changes social work needs.”

“Normally I’m a bit reticent about creating new organisations, but I really do feel that for the SW profession there’s something missing here.

“When I look at the structures that are in place to support the NHS workforce…it’s struck me for a considerable time now that there is a national body that could really fill a gap here for the SW profession.

“You’re still ultimately talking about a small profession, but it’s an essential profession that is the glue for many of our systems.”

Legislation to establish a new National Social Work Agency was proposed as part of the National Care Service Bill last year with the aim of promoting training and development, providing national leadership, and setting and monitor standards in social work.

The proposed agency will have responsibility for a range of elements of the profession, such as social worker pay grades, workforce planning, training and development, and qualifications.

“I want [the agency] to have a standing at national level,” Constance told an audience of social work professionals at the online conference yesterday. “There is a real opportunity for the social work agency to be a powerful voice.”

Referring to a CELCIS research study, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government and published last month capturing the views of children’s services workers, Constance said she was struck by a quote from a social worker who said: ‘Individual practice can be as good as you like, but when it is in a very flawed system, the overall perception of the profession will be poor.’

“That's where the agency comes in. It will be an opportunity to fix the system, to recognise the value of the profession, our ethics and approach and all of you who work in it. It will champion social work and make the voices of social workers heard.

Constance also announced financial support for student social workers in Scotland, following a campaign by the Social Workers Union (SWU) and the Campaign Collective highlighting the hardships of third- and fourth-year students not getting bursaries on their placements.

“We recognise the importance of providing appropriate financial support to social work students. Currently there are various strands exploring how best to reform the financial support package available.

“As a first step, we announced that from the 2024 to 2025 academic year postgraduate students who are not eligible to receive a Scottish Social Services Council bursary will be able to apply for the postgraduate funding package administered by the student awards agency Scotland.”

Find out more about the National Care Service Bill: https://www.gov.scot/news/national-care-service-bill-published/

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