New forum marks 50 years of Scottish social work

A celebration of Scotland’s social work past is to be used as a launch pad to shape the sector’s future.

Leading figures from within the field will meet at the University of Dundee on Thursday for ‘Talking Social Work’, a new professional forum aimed at debating key issues affecting the occupation.

Dundee lecturing staff are to be joined by social workers from across Angus, Dundee, Fife, and Perth and Kinross for the inaugural meeting, to be held at the University’s Dalhousie Building.

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, Tim Armstrong, social work lecturer at the University of Dundee, said that one aim of the event was to help to promote collaborative working between local bodies.

“Social work is facing significant challenges at present, including increasing demand for services with frontline staff being asked to do more and more with fewer resources,” he said.

“The establishment of Talking Social Work provides professionals with a fantastic opportunity to come together and discuss these challenges and how we can improve and develop social work services. It will offer social work staff and academics the opportunity to discuss and debate key ideas that inform modern day social work practice.

“At the University of Dundee we are committed to changing lives and social work is one of the foremost ways in which we can do that. As we mark half a century of social work in Scotland, this forum will help to develop new strategies that could shape the profession in Tayside and Fife over the next 50 years. This is a great example of the University, our neighbouring local authorities and the third sector working together.”

The introduction of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 is credited with establishing the framework of modern social work services. Its main purpose was to introduce a legislative requirement on local authorities to promote social welfare by making available advice, guidance and assistance to Scotland’s most vulnerable people.

Prior to the act, social work had not been widely established as a professional service within local government. With little or no support for children and young people in trouble or at risk, the legislation has provided the basis of support for tens of thousands of Scots over five decades who otherwise may have gone without assistance.

Among those addressing delegates at Thursday’s event are the University of Dundee’s Dr Trish McCulloch and Professor Alan Baird, a former Chief Social Work Advisor to the Scottish Government, along with Jane Martin, Dundee City Council’s Chief Social Work Officer.