Blog: Stop:Go – a passion for change

Stop:Go – a passion for change

The Care Review’s Professor Alan Baird reflects on World Social Work Day 2019 and its theme of promoting human relationships
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Professor Alan Baird

    Professor Alan Baird

The theme for World Social Work Day 2019 is ‘Promoting the Importance of Human Relationships’ which for each and every social worker should be at the heart of their ability to empower, support and protect people, with a focus on prevention, early intervention and enablement.

Each day social workers across Scotland, and the world, work to balance a number of complex issues whilst working to ensure the protection of our most vulnerable children, young people and adults from abuse and exploitation.

The link between the theme of World Social Work Day and my work as co-chair of the Independent Care Review’s Stop:Go work group could not be more relevant today.

Over recent years the voice of care experienced young people has become louder and more powerful. I recall two particular meetings which clearly articulated that it was time for professionals, councillors and the wider public to start really listening to the real voices of experience – young people themselves.

I was a member of Scotland’s first Champion’s Board in Dundee. In a short time officers were told by the young people that ties were banned from all of the meetings! That was only the start!

More importantly the confidence of the young people leading the Champions Board quickly grew as they realised that not only their voice was being heard but that there was a real commitment to change by everyone involved.

The success of the board and many like them across Scotland, are and will remain critical in providing local platforms for change.

The second major influence was in Scottish Government during my period as Chief Social Work Adviser, when I chaired one of the Corporate Parenting training sessions attended by 60 senior civil servants.

Ashley Cameron, Thomas Carlton and Kevin Browne-MacLeod blew the packed conference away. Sharing their very personal experiences and focussing on future solutions was both emotional and inspiring for what change was possible, if care experienced young people could contribute in a way they had been unable to in the past.

There is no doubt the loud, articulate and passionate voices echoing across the country played a major part in what has become the Independent Care Review.

I can genuinely say that in 40 years in social work, I have never been part of such an inspiring group of young people who give so much of themselves to help build a future for others who will need the protection, love and trust of those around them.

As co-chair of the Stop:Go work group with my co-chair, Laura Beveridge, we have brought together a group who are bursting with ideas and enthusiasm for change.

For many of them their lives beautifully connect their skills, and experience with integrity, and a determination to help bring about real and sustainable change for future generations.

Our agenda, which has been informed by the Discovery stage voices is:

  • What practice needs to STOP?
  • What are the areas being giving the green light to GO?
  • What areas of practice require ROCKET FUEL?

These may be small pockets of practice, which if we can ignite could take off more widely in Scotland.

Over the next few weeks we will be developing our workplan, visiting Inverclyde, as well as working closely with the co-chairs of other Care Review work groups and talking to researchers regarding areas of work we are seeking additional evidence for as part of our work plan.

There are undoubtedly many challenges ahead, as we step forward into uncharted territory.

However, the success of the Stop:Go work group and more importantly the wider Care Review will be largely as a result of our shared values, goals, the courage of many to share their personal journeys and the strong relationships which exist within the Stop:Go and wider Journey Group.

On World Social Work Day, whilst we should correctly celebrate all that is positive in the profession, we must also recognise that young people need so much more from us – love, trust, belief and consistency are some of what young people tell me and the Journey Group they need.

This can only happen through the relationships built with children and young people. Perhaps the biggest challenge will be to seek out the voices of those hardest to reach.

We must work even harder to encourage and support them to share their voice. Their futures depend on us as professionals and it is our responsibility to deliver.

About the author

Alan qualified as a social worker in 1980 and subsequently held a number of practitioner and management posts in Glasgow, Angus, and Dundee. He was appointed Director of Social Work with Dundee City Council in 2001 and served as President of the Association of Directors of Social Work in 2008/9. Alan was appointed Chief Social Work Adviser to Scottish Government in 2013 and remained in post until April of that year.

Alan graduated with an MBA from Dundee University in 1999. He has been a Trustee of Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) since 2013 and has recently been appointed Honorary Professor in Social Work at Dundee University.

Follow Alan on twitter @AffleckBaird

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