Phillip Gillespie, social worker and the SSSC’s Head of Learning and Development, joined the SSSC in 2016. Phillip has a particular interest in work based learning, workforce planning and the emerging models of care that support integration of the health and social services workforce.
Here, Phillip celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Social Work (Scotland) Act and its role in developing the profession today.
‘Britain went through huge cultural and social change in the 1960s and saw two critical developments – the Kilbrandon report in 1964 and the Social Work (Scotland) Act in 1968. They brought a focus on youth justice and the role of care and protection for children and young people. They introduced the children’s hearing system model, which is unique to Scotland and the approach and delivery has largely remained the same. The 1968 Act also brought criminal justice social work into the statutory remit of social work departments and reformed community care.
‘The 1968 Act was seminal, bringing together these various elements and social interventions that had emerged since post war Britain. It saw the creation of a profession for people and practitioners who had the interests of a better, safer society and its citizens at heart.
‘This was the beginning of a new phase for the social work profession in Scotland, leading to what I see as the most fundamental development for the profession, which was when the Scottish Government introduced regulation in the early 2000s, followed by protection of the title ‘social work’ in 2005. For the first time since the ’68 Act created social work as we know it, this meant that only people who are qualified and registered with the SSSC could call themselves a social worker.
‘This development was dedicated to professionalising and enhancing social work in Scotland and I am proud to be part of it, both as a social worker and now in my role with the SSSC.
‘Having qualified in 1997 with the Diploma in Social Work followed by a Masters in Social Work from the University of Wales in 1999, I have been in social work ever since, from my days working with a daily caseload to managing a shared service as the assistant head of social services with Clackmannanshire and Stirling Councils.
‘I registered as soon as the SSSC opened the Register to social workers. And I believe that protection of title provides the public confidence that social work is committed to educating and registering people who are required to achieve professional standards and to evidence a commitment that demonstrates ongoing improvement in practice.
‘Introducing regulation in Scotland saw a welcome departure from self regulation and placed the outcomes of users of social services at the heart of social work practice in providing a trusted, skilled and confident workforce. Social work practice takes people from the point of crisis and risk to give them protection and control over their lives.
‘Bringing in the requirement for a social work degree further increased the skills and confidence of this workforce, building competence and strengthening public accountability. And the SSSC Codes of Practice set out the values, standards and behaviours the public can expect from social workers as well as all other social services workers. These complement both the new National Care Standards and the values of the profession such as self-determination, choice and treating people with dignity and respect. They also reinforce the core competencies of social work practice to promote equality, recognise power imbalances, promote diversity and the rights and choices of the people they work with.
‘These have been an eventful 50 years in the development of social work as a service and social work as a profession. And as with all things, it will continue to change and morph according to society’s needs, economic change and policy direction.’