SSSC international

Mairi-Anne Macdonald, our Director of Sector Development and other SSSC staff have spoken at conferences in the USA, Germany and Sweden to name but a few and are continuing to travel far and wide.  Here Mairi-Anne tells us her reasons why this work is so important.
Mairi-Anne Macdonald

Mairi-Anne Macdonald

The SSSC wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a social service workforce and much of our work is about  supporting the learning and development of the workforce so that the public is protected, receive excellent services because of the confidence and competence of social service workers and the SSSC making sure that the right people are on the social services Register.  But we also do other things including raising awareness of what social service workers do and how important their contribution is to the people of Scotland. Because social services are very diverse and cover a range of professions and functions it can be difficult for the general public and for people who work in other professions to know what social service workers do and as Director of Sector Development and the Registrar I think that an important part of my job is to help people understand social services better.

One of the ways I do this is to speak publicly about social work, social care, registration, workforce development, leadership and learning.  Sometimes I talk about the issues affecting social service workers, so that people understand why these jobs can be so challenging (and so rewarding), and often I talk about the incredible work that social service workers do every day, in difficult circumstances, on behalf of the people of Scotland. I’m often asked to talk about the current issues affecting social service workers, like the introduction of self-directed support and the integration of health and social care.  Sometimes when I see an interesting opportunity I’ll contact the organisers and ask them if I can come along and speak – you need to find opportunities as well as using the ones that come to you!  We can all be ambassadors for care in our everyday lives, telling people about what we do and why we do it.  Working in social services is something to be proud of.

As well as speaking at conferences in this country, I have been able to speak at some international conferences. Through doing this, I can promote what is happening in social services in Scotland, and the SSSC’s contribution to that. I recently spoke at the Council for Licensure Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR) conference in St Louis, USA with Anna Fowlie and Frances Scott from SSSC, about the experiences of early years managers who have completed the degree in Childhood Practice (see Anna’s slides here). People there were very interested in several things:

  • how we had been able to achieve a consistent level of qualification across a part of the workforce through regulation
  • how the qualification was developed collaboratively with key stakeholders
  • how working towards the qualification had helped early years managers really make a difference to practice in their workplaces and therefore make a difference to children’s lives.

Several people want to speak to us more about our experience because they are thinking about doing the same thing and some people want to come and see what’s happening in Scotland. I’ll shortly be going to speak to social workers at the Protecting the Public – Enhancing the Profession conference in New Zealand about how and why regulation was introduced in Scotland, and how it has impacted on social services, because they’re thinking about doing the same thing, and want to learn from our experience.  It’s amazing how often people look at what is happening in Scotland and wish that their country was the same.

As well as promoting what is happening in Scotland, being at international conferences is also a great opportunity to find out what is happening in the rest of the world, and to learn from their innovation and creativity.  Last year I went to a learning technology conference in Germany and was completely inspired by people there talking about new ways of learning.  That really influenced me to find out more and think about how I could take some of these ideas and use them in the work we are doing here. I also made some good contacts and some good friends and I’m still in contact with many of them, sometimes just to ask a question or advice and sometimes to answer their questions.

It’s also a huge responsibility to be representing the SSSC and social services in Scotland in other countries.  I have to be so careful to make sure that what I’m saying is accurate and is really representing what is happening. Talking on behalf of other people is complicated – Am I really getting the message across? Am I representing a broad range of views? Am I good enough at public speaking? At the conference in St Louis, we took along a film of some early years managers telling their stories themselves, and that went down really well – it was much more powerful than us telling their stories for them.

Why do I find all the ways I can to talk about social services in Scotland? Because I’m proud to be a registered social worker, working in Scotland, representing and promoting as best I can what you are doing to support the most vulnerable people on behalf of us all.

What’s next?

Mairi-Anne will be speaking at the Protecting the Public – Enhancing the Profession conference in New Zealand about how and why regulation was introduced in Scotland on 10 and 11 November.

Not to waste the great opportunity of being at the other side of the world, Mairi-Anne has lots of other meetings arranged.  Here are a few:


6 November – Brad Astbury from the Centre for Programme Evaluation at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education

6 November – Kym Ayscough from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Authority

8 November – Kevin Woods from the Ministry of Health, New Zealand

13 November – Lucy Sandford Reed, Present of the Association for Social Workers in Aotearoa New Zealand

13 November – Liz Beddoe from the University of Auckland


So follow and keep up to date with Mairi-Anne on Twitter @mairi_anneSSSC and follow her blog here on SSSC News online.

Interested in our international work, registration or Childhood Practice?

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