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Scottish Government considers establishing a National Social Work Agency

A major plan containing 80 actions to improve the lives of children, young people and families in and around the edges of care, including the potential to set up a National Social Work Agency, has been published following the Care Review in Scotland.

31/03/22

Scottish Government considers establishing a National Social Work Agency

Following the conclusion of its Care Review, the Scottish Government has this week announced its ‘Keeping The Promise Implementation Plan’, which aims to significantly reduce the number of children in care.

Holyrood says it will provide at least £500 million over the current Parliamentary term to help families stay together, with plans including the potential to establish a National Social Work Agency, and introduction of a national allowance for foster and kinship carers.

Following the conclusion of the Independent Care Review just over two years ago, the authors published recommendations under the banner of ‘The Promise’ with the Scottish Government signing up to legislate the actions set out within it.

Releasing its implementation plan, the Scottish Government said the unprecedented impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the need for urgent change.

“[The pandemic] has affected us all, and for many of our care experienced people, it has made already difficult situations more challenging. This is why we must move now to put our energy fully behind bringing the change required to improve lives,” the plan says.

“A fundamental shift rather than incremental change is needed. It is critical to the lives of our young people as well as our success as a nation that, as we emerge from a public health emergency, we make sure we build a system that prevents crisis in the lives of children, young people and families, and the care, support and love for our children is at the heart of this system.”

Actions included in the implantation plan include a £500 million investment over the course of the current Parliamentary session, with £50 million promised in the 2022-23 financial year, in preventative spend through the Whole Family Wellbeing Fund.

Ministers say this will deliver “transformational change” and service redesign in the delivery of whole family support, as well as enabling the building of “universal, holistic support services”. It’s hoped that this will also help reduce the need for crisis intervention, such as in child and adolescent mental health and substance abuse, and reduce child poverty.

Ministers say they will also consider establishing a National Social Work Agency to “support the workforce and ensure equality of service and support.” It said the plans are an opportunity to establish a single national lead that has oversight and leads social workers' professional development, education, terms and conditions, workforce planning and improvement.

Plans for a National Social Work Agency were explored last year as part of a public consultation on the National Care Service. Responses showed strong support for the establishment of a National Social Work Agency that would invest in the social work profession to ‘scale up good practice’. The Scottish Government said, however, that if plans on this were to progress it would need to be developed by working with stakeholders across the sector and those with lived experience.

The implementation plan also aims to support local areas to implement the new National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021, which ministers say is a “necessary shift that supports the least intrusive and most supportive levels of intervention at all stages.”

Also outlined are plans for a new £200 annual grant for 16–25-year-olds with care experience to provide additional financial and help reduce some of the financial barriers that young people face in transitions to adulthood and more independent living.

The Scottish Government says it will set a ‘Recommended National Allowance’ for foster and kinship carers, as well as ending the placement of 16- and 17-year-olds in Young Offenders Institutions “without delay”. Ministers say they will fund care-based alternatives to custody and consult on new legislation in Spring this year.

The current plans are a commitment up until the year 2030, however the Scottish Government says the primary focus at this stage is delivery of The Promise Scotland's ‘Plan 21-24’. It says its work will continue to evolve as it delivers the commitments and further actions are identified, and that the plan may be refreshed to meet ‘Plan 25-27’ in due course.

Minister for Children and Young People, Clare Haughey, said the actions outlined will help families to safely stay together.

“More than 5,500 people - half of them children and young people with experience of care - told the Independent Care Review that change is needed. This plan sets out, for the first time, over 80 actions that the Scottish Government will take to keep The Promise to deliver that change.

“These ambitious actions will help families to thrive so they can safely stay together. They will also support carers and families engaged with the care system, as well as care leavers and care experienced people in education and employment.

“Alongside The Promise Scotland, the care community, local government, and many others, we are building on work that is already under way to bring forward change as quickly as possible.”

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