You did consult your own Chief Social Work Adviser, didn’t you?

Well actually, no … or so it would seem from Simon Stockwell’s reply on behalf of Scottish Ministers. On 13 August 2020 he provided a response to a Freedom of Information request seeking specific information in relation to the role of Child Welfare Reporter (formerly known as Bar Reporter).

Here is the main part of that response.

“All three parts of this request relate to the Chief Social Work Adviser. We are not aware of:

~ the Chief Social Work Adviser being invited to join or otherwise contribute to the Bar Reporters Working Group;

~ the Chief Social Work Adviser being invited to contribute to or otherwise inform the development of any and all plans in relation to Child Welfare Reporters since January 2013;

~ any documents as to whether or not the Chief Social Work Adviser should be invited to contribute to or otherwise inform the development of any and all plans in relation to Child Welfare Reporters since January 2013.

Four documents were also disclosed. Full details of both request and response can be found in the window below. Please also note that unspecified information has been withheld from the response under exemptions cited in appendix A.

There are two main reasons why someone might reasonably expect the Scottish Government to hold information about its own Chief Social Work Adviser, Iona Colvin, having been consulted about the role of Child Welfare Reporter, given what’s in section 8 of the Children (Scotland) Bill.

The first of those is that the role of Child Welfare Reporter, as the name suggests, concerns the welfare of children. Welfare is the domain of the social work profession and the Chief Social Work Adviser is in that post to advise on such matters. In fact, the Chief Social Work Adviser’s web entry has this entry under the heading “Responsibilities”:

“The Chief Social Work Adviser advises ministers and policy teams with an interest in, or responsibility for, aspects of social work services and practice.

The adviser works with policy teams leading on major programmes including integration of health and social care, adult social care, implementation of self-directed support, Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and community justice reform.

The Scottish Government know that local authority social work departments once provided the majority of these reports for the Scottish Courts and some continue to provide them to this day (as, so I understand, do some independent social workers). That alone ought to have been all that was required to suggest the input of the Chief Social Work Adviser might be prudent, if not essential. Then there was the decision, arising from the efforts of the Working Group on Bar Reporters, to rename this role to “Child Welfare Reporter” which itself ought to have given rise to her involvement.

The second reason is that the Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser (OCSWA) has responsibility for the regulation of social workers in Scotland by the professional regulator: the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC). This is important because one of the proposals in section 8 is to set up registers that will include social workers already registered with and regulated by the SSSC.

Another post on this blog – “How did we get here?” – suggests the Minister does not understand what she is proposing and that, as a result, she is re-inventing the wheel with the measures she has proposed in section 8.

There is a much better and more straight forward solution available to address the issue of unqualified, untrained and unregulated Child Welfare Reporters. The solution is to ensure only social workers are appointed to that role.

That can be achieved by MSPs voting for the amendment tabled by Liam McArthur (Liberal Democrat, Orkney).

You can open the documents below in a larger window by clicking on the arrow icon in the bottom right corner of the frame below.

#section8

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