A strong, independent voice

At SASW we are excited about being a lead partner in the Revisiting Child Protection in Scotland research project. We know that there are some real challenges around for social workers today. We also know that there are things that are working and helping to improve children’s lives, as well as those of their families and communities.  This is an opportunity to work with academics and practitioners to actively support social workers and ultimately improve outcomes. Our key contribution to this research study will be the establishment of Communities of Practice for children and families social workers across Scotland. The communities will be an opportunity to share knowledge, research and practice, to focus on what works, what we can do better and how. They will be a forum for critical reflection about child protection, with academic input. Our focus will not be on implementing or reviewing systems, but on what can be done to support improvements in practice in what are challenging times of austerity. We will look at better contact and meaningful co-production with people who use the services. We will talk about the impact of this complex work on social workers; how can we support you, and what can you do to keep yourself well and safe and maintain the enthusiasm that led you to this area of practice?  SASW already has access to a wealth of knowledge and research, and the communities of practice will enable us to further open this up to the social work community. SASW is part of BASW, the UK wide organization, and we are a member of IFSW, the International Federation of Social Workers, so part of a global network.

In the course of our work at SASW we are often met with the question “Why should I join a professional association? What’s in it for me? I’m in a Union, surely that’s all I need?’ However SASW is so much more than just a Union. Yes, we do have the Social Workers Union which provides expert employment representation from fully trained trade union officials who are also registered social workers. SASW membership also provides social workers with £5 million Professional Indemnity Insurance, a Code of Ethics, a monthly magazine, access to e-bulletins and online materials, discounts on books, journals and events, and access to special interest groups and branches.

And there’s more. Did you know we are the only independent and member-led organisation for social workers in Scotland? We are a campaigning organisation – we lobby the Scottish government on your behalf. Our remit is to protect, maintain, develop and promote the profession. We are passionate about the code of ethics and our code of practice, and will not stand for any dilution of our professional identity.   Run and governed by our members, we are independent of any other social work establishment stakeholders – this allows us to deal squarely and honestly with all of them on behalf of our members and in the sole interest of the profession. We work with partners within the Social Services Strategy for Scotland, where we reflect your views and interests. We have a steadily growing voice in the media, and we actively campaign to raise the public profile of social work.

We have been invited to be part of the current review of the child protection system announced by the Education Secretary in February.  We will represent what our members tell us about what works and what needs to change, how it feels to work within this context, and what can enable and empower social workers.

SASW is the professional organisation for social workers in Scotland. Being part of SASW means being part of a collective voice, a voice that grows in strength as our membership increases. A voice which shouts out for the profession and what it needs to grow and flourish. This is a time of real flux, change and uncertainty for social workers. Increasingly we hear about a climate of fear, where the focus is on risk rather than need. We need to join together and speak up about how we feel and what we need to do our jobs effectively, so we can improve outcomes for vulnerable children and adults.

Individual professionals are as strong as their professional association. Professional associations are as strong as their membership. SASW will continue to grow. The more it grows, the more it can do for social work practice. Our profession has protection of title, and we stand up for that and will not see it eroded. We have to ensure that striving for social justice is not jargon, but an ambition we work towards in partnership with the people we work with and for. We must be proud to call ourselves social workers.

Sarah McMillan

Professional Officer, Scottish Association of Social Workers

20th July 2016


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