Hey Jude by The Beatles and Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World were the big hits of the year. The film Oliver the Musical was released, pop icon Kylie Minogue was born and the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 became an Act of Parliament.
All are celebrating 50 distinguished years and have all stood the test of time, but what significance has the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 for social work?
Liam Purdie, Head of Children and Justice Services and Chief Social Work Officer, South Lanarkshire Council explains.
‘As a social worker for 30 years, I was brought up with the Social Work (Scotland) Act. In 1968 when it became an Act of Parliament, it legislated how social work is carried out and it reflected a change for society in how we must address social inequalities. Before the Act it would not be unfair to refer to previous ‘social work’ interventions and practice as more charitable and well meaning organisations working with vulnerable groups. The Act laid the foundations for social work to develop and mature as a profession and professional body.
‘Although now celebrating 50 years, it has seen many challenges and developments over the years. It has given birth to a number of new and brave legislation over the years. The Community Care and Health (Scotland) Act 2002, Children (Scotland) Act 1995, mental health care and treatment and developments in community justice, to mention some of the offspring. It is important to recognise that underpinning all of these was the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968.
‘As social workers we should not underestimate the significance of the 1968 Act in nurturing these important pieces of legislation. As a result, we have been the drivers and leaders through legislation in closing large cold institutions that promoted social isolation and exclusion for large groups of our society. Today we would never consider such environments and practice to be in any individual’s interest whether it was children, adults affected by learning difficulties or individuals in need of psychological supports.
‘The Act at the time gave a status to the role of the social worker and as we developed as professionals, society and governments recognised the importance of the social work profession and in 2003 the registration of us as social workers through the SSSC gave us a professional status in statute. We have become and are a profession and professional body that has status in legislation in everything we do that started with the 1968 Act.
‘We have a code of practice that is value based about protecting the rights of individuals but particularly those most disadvantaged in our communities. The role of social worker in all public protection arrangements whether children or adults has a clarity and accountability that is recognised in society. With this comes accountability and responsibility however over 50 years we have not only embraced this we have developed and grown in our thinking and practice for the better good.
‘As a profession we should be proud of the journey we have all been on and along with Kylie Minogue and Louis Armstrong’s It’s a Wonderful World, it is right and proper that we celebrate 50 years of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 and its influence on contemporary legislation that enables us to challenge disadvantage and discrimination wherever it raises its head.’