Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Islands in the sun

When I became Vice President in 2010 I decided to commit to support the island authorities to feel better involved with ADSW so I agreed to go to a meeting with the three Directors in Glasgow. (Apparently it is the most convenient location for all three.) I have tried to keep my word this year and two of the three CSWOs have changed as both Gillian Morrison and Ann Williamson have retired, to be replaced by Caroline Sinclair in Orkney and Hughina Leslie in Shetland.

So that is the backdrop, and on 11th January I had dinner with Peter Hay of Birmingham and Ian Macaulay of Western Isles in advance of the Integration Seminar we were all to attend the following day. Over dinner I agreed to go out to the Western Isles to meet staff and take some of the debate to Stornoway and a date is fixed for 26th April. The following day at the seminar which was attended by a good number of representatives from CHCP Directors, I was invited to visit the Shetland CHCP as a gentle challenge to the ADSW reported position on CHCPs as being 'broken'. Of course I agreed and last week I travelled to Lerwick as Christine Ferguson's guest for a whistle stop tour.

ADSW's position on integration was not so much that CHCPs were broken, it was more that, as sub committees of Health Boards they are not consistently successful at fully involving local authorities to meet social care needs. ADSW has sought evidence on what works and has promoted a policy whereby a framework of policy and outcomes are set nationally and  delivery arrangements are determined are locally, accountability is joint and budgets are integrated.

So in unfeasibly warm sunshine I set off for the Shetland Islands with no real expectations other than that I would meet some good colleagues who I normally see only once a year at conference.
On arrival Christine drove me to Kantersted to meet the combined senior management team (see picture below). The welcome was warm and the mood was enthusiastic as we ranged over topics from primary care to learning disability, mental health to CJSW.

On the Monday evening I dined with an old Borders colleague, Ralph Roberts, now CEO of NHS Shetland, together with the chair of the CHCP, the chair of the Adult Protection Committee and the Director of Public Health. Once more it was a good exchange of ideas and I was confronted once more by the similarity of our challenges across Scotland - and the necessary difference of our solutions - Shettleston isn't Shetland!

Tuesday dawned with bright, warm sunshine once more and I met Helen Budge, Director of Education, the combined occupational therapy team, the community mental health team and Ann and Hughina. Ann, who many of you know, retired in January and now works part time for Alzheimer's Scotland and she has been replaced by Hughina. At the same time, the CSWO role has moved from Community Care to Children and Families and we discussed the significance of the move, the way in which the role is manifested in Shetland and the importance with which it is seen by the Council.

The visit was over all too soon but not before I had seen for myself the value of local determination, local arrangements to deliver national objectives. The model here works well and is well supported but there are aspects that wouldn't suit us in Borders - why should they - but they work for Shetland and I was very pleased to experience it.

Earlier in March, together with Pat Watters I was a guest speaker for Moray Council at a staff seminar held at Elgin City FC. Sandy Riddell is on the brink of a major re-structuring and asked us along to give thoughts on the integration agenda. Once more, a different council, different context, different agenda and a structure designed to meet local circumstance and it struck me as being well supported and well put together.
These forays around Scotland further convince me of the value of the local approach.


Friday, 9 March 2012

The Minister, the revolutionary and the quiet revolution

2012 may be remembered for many things – Olympic Games in London? Queens Diamond Jubilee? European Championships? All the above probably, but I had a part in a small event last week that I hope signifies another, more durable reason to remember this year because on March 1st at the Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, Minister of Public Health, Michael Matheson MSP launched the Social Care (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Bill once more into the Scottish Parliament.

The momentous nature of the event was somewhat dulled by the absence of the Bill itself which was not cleared for publication until two hours after the event concluded. However it was a colourful and eventful morning. The speakers were required to reveal something about themselves – I said I had something in common with Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney and Barack Obama – left handed. However Minister Matheson revealed that he was the only foreigner to attend the funeral of Che Guevara in Cuba where his body was interred some twenty years after he was killed in the Bolivian jungle. He apparently attended the ceremony at which Guevara was laid to rest in a mausoleum in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara, site of Batista's final defeat. Fancy that!

The event involved some ‘speed dating’ as delegates moved around 6 or 7 tableaux where they were engaged by different speakers and stimuli. Pam Duncan gave a breathless and perfectly timed six minutes on what SDS means to her. Elsewhere we had to ‘make our mark’ with a finger print to demonstrate commitment.

Why do I go into such detail? Because I was the only Director present and was keen to ensure that the event was registered by us all.

As for the Bill itself, it was available online by Thursday and as you might expect it is similar to the version tabled prior to the dissolution in 2011. The four options for SDS are:
Option 1: the local authority makes a direct payment to the supported person in order that the person can then use that payment to arrange their support.
Option 2: the supported person chooses their support and the local authority makes arrangements for the support on behalf of the supported person.
Option 3: the local authority selects the appropriate support and makes arrangements for its provision by the local authority.
Option 4: a mix of options 1, 2 and 3 for specific aspects of a person‘s support. This is to recognise that some individuals may wish to take one of the options for particular aspects of their support needs, but to receive their remaining support under one or other of the remaining options.

The Bill makes clear that the authority must give the supported person the opportunity to choose one of the options for self-directed support unless the authority considers that the supported person is ineligible to receive direct payments.

Published alongside the Bill is the Financial Memorandum which states in paragraph 67 that:
The purpose of this Bill is to underpin the aim to deliver choice and control for those who receive social care and support as set out in the Scottish Government‘s 10-year National Self- Directed Support strategy. The specific impacts of the Bill provisions themselves are relatively narrow. However, there are a range of costs associated with transforming culture, systems and approaches to social care provision (my italics) in response to the Bill and the wider Strategy.

The table beneath reveals £682,000 over two years for workforce development and £73,000 available in 2013/14 for joint working with NHS.

A further £42m is available over 3 years for costs indirectly associated with Bill implementation – transformation etc.

So, it is clear that SDS is underway for parliamentary consideration as a default option for the provision of support and could well become a deal changer.

In my speech at the event I quoted from our manifesto, Challenging Systems, Changing Lives:

“If Self Directed Support legislation is passed with the presumption that this will be the norm, it would be possible to deliver an entirely new contract with people who need our assistance; a contract that empowers them to make choices and allows our focus to centre on enablement, protection and continuous improvement.

We know that this will not happen overnight and may meet with some resistance, but the Association recognises a duty to lead, to secure resources and to fulfill the statutory obligations of local authorities: “to promote social welfare by making available advice, guidance and assistance on such a scale as may be appropriate for their area...” [Section 12 Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968]”

I hope we are all preparing to be a part of this quiet revolution.

“It is difficult stuff and the demand is instant, urgent and problematic”

Post: January 2012

A two week break at Christmas was perhaps a little too much for me. I spent half of Christmas Day in a windy field with eight firefighters and a vet trying to rescue my daughter’s pony from a quagmire and later had to deal with a flooded kitchen and replace our washing machine! So when the call came to return to work it seemed like a good idea.

However, the return has been characterised for me by a series of high profile press stories and as these are events we all have to deal with, I thought it might be appropriate to make this the topic of my first blog for 2012. The  media demands for a leader in social work are many and varied and can be the most vital task we undertake in explaining our work.

Since becoming President last May I have had to write opinion pieces for national papers, write for professional journals, be interviewed on Newsnight twice - regarding charging and the ethics of care. I have been interviewed on The Politics Show regarding welfare reform but until now I haven't had to deal with that most difficult of  challenges. responding to a child death.

I was up early on the 12th January to prepare for our seminar on integration in Edinburgh. At breakfast in my hotel I saw the newspapers which were filled with pictures of the squalid, degraded house in Paisley where amid accumulated rubbish and detritus the remains of the infant Declan Hainey had been found in 'a semi-mummified state'.

I was aware that his mother was to be sentenced that day and wondered what might be expected of ADSW. The tragic events leading to Declan's death have been much in everyone’s mind. A serious case review has been conducted but is not yet in the public domain. The responsible agencies and partnerships have to explain what has occurred and to justify the actions taken. A joint press statement by the Health Board and Council described how their efforts had been thwarted by Hainey 'deliberately avoided contact by lying to social work and health staff".

Renfrewshire Child Protection Committee has an independent chair, and those of you who have seen any of the coverage will appreciate the value of an independent person being able to articulate the key issues. This is difficult stuff and the demand is instant, urgent and problematic.

My phone went as I set out from my hotel to walk down Haymarket to COSLA. It was Jane Devine, the BBC had called, I have 30 minutes notice of a need to take part in a phone in on BBC Scotland – Call Kaye.

The theme “what can we expect from our system to try to protect children” I have twice appeared on this show previously but this was the first such occasion to deal with a real and present, emotionally charged issue. I sat in the ADSW office (immediately prior to our integration seminar), switched on the radio and it was immediately apparent that passions were roused and once more the Scottish public transferred their frustration, anger and passionate fury from the murderer onto the public agencies who were there to protect.

It is entirely understandable but very difficult to respond to and as I listened in I could hear Ruth Stark making  the case for social work practitioners in child protection on behalf of SASW but I was concerned to think how I could say something valuable, something that might introduce balance to an emotional debate. I was asked:
‘Are we drowning in the system?’
Has it become to big, too overbearing?’
Is the danger that nobody takes responsibility?’.
‘No it isn’t that the system is too big, these are complex circumstances, these cases hold up a mirror to society, shine it in a dark corner and people don’t like what they see’”
‘Yes, someone has been held to account and today they will be sentenced to life in prison.
‘No, we can never guarantee to the people of Scotland that we can protect every child, whether it be the GP, the health visitor or the social worker, we all rely on information and public support.”

It was challenging and I was keen to introduce some fairness and balance. My intention is always to explain, to represent social work fairly, to give context.

Nearer to home, in my own authority, a 3rd sector home for older people with dementia has been making the newspapers with a snowballing story. A series of allegations have made the front pages of our local press for three weeks and have also been reported by the BBC and the Herald.

How does a CSWO respond in these circumstances?  it is not directly run by the authority but we purchase nearly all the places. Furthermore, the CSWO or Director is looked to for a complex set of leadership behaviours; to establish necessary action, to liaise closely and effectively with the provider, the regulator and elected members, to provide contingency plans and above all, to secure the safety of the resident population.
When I led the work to develop new guidance on the role of the CSWO a couple of years ago, I made a particular point of giving the role a territorial as distinct from a departmental or local authority parameter. It always struck me that we have this wider leadership expectation and that we should deploy it sparingly but confidently.

Accordingly I went before my Council in  private session last week and gave them a comprehensive briefing on a service we do not manage or control and I assume a leadership role in its resolution. It is a role that has its roots firmly in the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 and one of the many advantages of Scottish social work that we should jealously guard.   


28th January 2012

Monday, 19 December 2011

"We are not starting from scratch or with a blank sheet of paper…."

We have reached the solstice, the turn of the solar year and I am about half way through my Presidency. There is a curious turning point in the principal policy obsession of the year so far that has been marked by the Cabinet Secretary's announcement on the future of social care and health integration on 12th December and the parliamentary debate on 15th December. The year ends with the abandonment of the National Care service idea  by the Labour Party, the abandonment of the SNP ideas about a nationally driven lead comissioning arrangement (38,000 social workers to transfer to the NHS) and a confirmed policy regarding the future of integration - one which closely mirrors the proposals developed by ADSW. I think therefore that it is worth reflecting upon the way in which this has come about, the errors and successes along the way and the issues coming up.

In 2009/10 ADSW developed a series of policy positions which were brief, clear and assembled into a document we called a manifesto. The intention being to have a comprehensive range of policy positions which could anchor our work and guide us when contemplating change proposed by government. Just today, I quoted from the manifesto in offering a statement of support to Scottish government to mark the re-introduction of the Self Directed Support (Scotland) bill which is to be published in January. I didn't have to think twice - we had a position and I could quote it.

The manifesto was published in October 2010 - just as the challenge of integration started in Oban at the Labour Party Conference and in Inverness as the Highland Council and Health Board announced their local proposals. It was readily apparent that these ideas were politically compelling as they appear to offer a quick solution to a range of pernicious problems with the delivery of health and care to older people. Problems such as apparently inexplicable differences in charging policies between local authorities, assessment delays, bureaucratic duplication and - above all else - delays in the discharge of older people from hospital.  ADSW understood the need to engage with this issue, to respond to the felt need and to try to shape policy so that we didn't throw the social work baby out with the problematic bathwater.

We decided on the primacy of local evidence based decision making. We gave support to any locally agreed partnership agreement for integration that sprang from local circumstances and enjoyed local consent. We decided to commission IRISS to provide us with an overview of the best evidence of what works in integrating services and I want to thank Alison Petch for a great piece of work, completed under time pressure, agreed, published and ready for MSPs returning from their summer break on 6th September.

In my speech to Conference on 18th May I announced this commission and set our position firmly and clearly as  "a friend of good government". (ie 'We know what you want to achieve and we'd like to help you avoid the pitfalls we see')

On the back of the IRISS document we published a position statement, sent it to Scottish Government, I spoke about it in London and shared the research with ADASS who took it into David Cameron's Future Forum which was advising on the issue for England. We took every offered opportunity to promote these ideas and took every invitation to attend engagement events. We worked closely with SOLACE and COSLA without ever compromising our particular position and thanks to the energy and commitments of key office bearers, Peter Macleod, Kenny Leinster and our past Presidents, Michelle, David and Alan, a national consensus began to emerge in November.
At this time Cabinet discussions became extended as - we understand - Cabinet Secretaries' gave serious and detailed consideration to the draft proposals and the implications they would have for their interfaces - Justice, Children and Families, Local Government etc.

The announcement when it came contained reference to just about all our points including the challenging ones of dual accountability and a joint financial framework. It is permissive of local variation and allows for the Highland variant without prescribing it, allows for the outcomes framework to be governed through community planning and importantly proposes to replace the CHP as sub committee of health board with a Health and Social Care Partnership accountable to local authority and health board.

Nicola Sturgeon opens the Debate 15th December 2011

The debate on 15th December lasted 2 hours 40 minutes. (
In her opening statement Nicola Sturgeon said "We are not starting from scratch or with a blank sheet of paper. There is a great deal to be proud of in Scotland in health and social care provision . There have been significant improvements in recent years in standards and outcomes, with improvements in waiting times, patient safety and delayed discharges from hospital. In a reference to Sir John Arbuthnott's work in the 'Expert Group', Jackie Baillie moved an amendment to "welcome the Scottish Governments acceptance of the need for legislative underpinning following the conclusions of the Expert Group" and in so doing concurred.

The Parliamentary debate was hard on ADSW in charactering our briefing as negative "the tone was less than desirable for this debate" (Denis Robertson Aberdeenshire West SNP),  "goes on to say why social work should stay in its silo" (Richard Lyle Central Scotland) and most worrying of all, "I agree with most of those who have spoken that ADSWs briefing wast most unhelpful. I hope that the ADSW will get round the table and share its concerns. (Sandra White Glasgow Kelvin SNP)

On the other side, Dr Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland and Fife LAB) said "Although the ADSW has concerns about the move, its president, Andrew Lowe said:
"We consider the announcement represents significant progress and we support the clear emphasis on making better use of joint resources."

Finally, I was greatly relieved and appreciative of Minister for Public Health, Michael Mathieson's closing comments:

"Notwithstanding some members concerns about the ADSW's views on the issue, it has been helpful to the government in our dialogue in recent months and weeks and I have no doubt that it will play a constructive part in the future."

So this engagement teaches us all a lot to take into the future. We can have great impact, but we can get burnt. We can engage with ideas, but ideas can be misunderstood.

Coming up we have a three month consultation on the proposal and we have set 12th January for a full day seminar on the issue. I am minded to write to those MSPs who spoke agin us and clarify our position and we must turn our mind to focussing on the detail (where the devil always resides) and understand what is proposed by the "single, senior, locally accountable officer" the parameters of the "integrated budgets" etc.

2012 looks to be equally action packed and the need for clear leadership from ADSW will continue. Peter and I have worked as a team this year and our work has been underpinned by the manifesto, we therefore need to look to you to support us in taking the work forward and continuing to influence the course of events in a positive manner.

Happy Christmas


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Tough times, good decisions

The title for my October blog comes from the title of the ADASS/ADCS conference which I attended in London last week as the fraternal delegate from Scotland alongside Parry Davies, DSW in Ceredigion and President of ADSS Cymru.

We formed a kind of 'celtic connection' and interestingly took similar positions on a lot of issues. One group I attended - not to gloat, honestly - was entitled 'Moving on from the Riots'. The  workshop was led by Director of Children's Services from Lambeth and the Children's Commissioner for England Maggie Atkinson together with the Leader of Salford Council.

There was clearly a tension between officers who sought not to demonise the participants and in so doing appearing to justify their actions and another group, largely Members, who wanted to continually bring the focus to the people who were victims of the disorder (and by the way, I learned that they were not riots but incidents civil disorder)

I met up with our sponsors, OLM, who kindly invited me to dinner last Wednesday evening (better declare it Sophie!) along with a selection of Directors of Adults and Children's Services from Southampton to Sunderland. We had a useful exchange of ideas.

The best moment for me was the session with Andrew Dilnot on The Reform of Funding for Adult Care. Andrew was of course the chair of the Commission who reported on this topic last summer. To refresh memories the essential proposal coming out of the report was that the current threshold move up from £23,500 to £100,000 and that the maximum contribution  (which is currently unlimited) should be set at £35,000 of individual liability for care costs. In this way he hopes and expects that the market will create financial products - insurance to you and me - to enable people to insure against a predictable risk.
Dilnot proved to be a witty and engaging speaker. He opened by saying he was 'fed up' with all the talk of the 'burden of ageing' and went on to celebrate the contribution of older people and their value to wider society. He then put a perspective on the cost of social care as a part of the cost of funding old age. Something like £85bn cost of Benefits, £50bn of Healthcare and 'only' £8bn is the cost of social care. He set the cost of his reforms at 1/400th of public spending and described the current means test in old age as the worst and unfairest that could be devised.

I asked him a question: There has been a lot of interest in your report in Scotland, have you had any discussions with Scottish civil servants and do you think it would be possible to adapt your findings to our Scottish context. He was clearly interested in the Scottish dimension, said that he had visited Scotland for the commission, that he had had no discussions with the SG but that 'Yes, it would be possible to do the analysis for Scotland'. Given the questions surrounding the sustainability of FPC, I wonder if you would think it worth pursuing this further?

Another highlight for me was the presentation by service user Ellen Goodey who addressed the 2,000 delegates in a plenary session saying "Caring is not another thing you have to do - it is THE thing!" Brilliant!

Finally this month, I was privileged to represent you at the Annual SACRO lecture on 4th October in the Playfair Library at Edinburgh University. The lecture was on  Compassion and Justice was given by Terry Waite. Apart from his long incarceration as a hostage in the Middle East, Terry Waite has long experience of the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom. He was a founder Trustee of the Butler Trust, an organisation that acknowledges outstanding work done by those who work in UK prisons and is a Patron and supporter of many other bodies associated with the criminal justice system. As one who, with my son, campaigned for his release together with John McCarthy and Brian Keenan, I was very pleased to meet him and shake his hand. For his part, Terry showed real interest in Scottish social work and its uniquely comprehensive service to offenders, their children, parents and grandparents.

On Wednesday, 26 October Peter and I had an audience with Cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon and I learned that it will not be long before we have some news on the integration proposals so stay tuned in.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A house of straws

I was in London to speak at an Inside Government conference last week. For my talk I chose to bring this largely English audience up to date with events in Scotland since last May and shared our position on integration. It seemed to be well received and I had a useful conversation with a new contact - Jesse Harris, Social Work Director of the Independent Living Fund. Based in England, the fund is of course UK wide and Jesse is currently planning a consultation on the future of ILF which will bring him to Scotland for two events. He expressed interest in the Self Directed Support Bill in working closely with ADSW and he will give us early notice of any announcements.

Peter Hay was also on the programme representing ADASS and we had a brief information exchange on areas of common interest including Southern Cross and social care and health integration. I gave him a copy of the IRISS report and ADSW position statement and he plans to feed them into his work on the Future Forum. This is the body formed to advise the Prime Minister about health sector reform in England. In his speech, Peter referred to integration as an experience, not a process and certainly not a structure (I could have written the lines myself.)

The conference was chaired by Baroness Pitkeithley (Lab) who is known to some of us as Jill Pitkeithley, chief executive of Carers UK for many years. She explained that she had to dash to the House of Lords for the 2nd Reading of the Welfare Reform Bill. Of course I blagged an invitation and sat near the throne in the south west gallery to watch the debate.

The experience buried a couple of long held prejudices – that the place would be largely empty and that it would be sparsely populated by rheumy-eyed old buffers from the English shires. In fact neither was the case. The House was fairly full and much more diverse than you might imagine. Seated near to me was a local peer, Lord Archie Kirkwood of Kirkhope (LIbDem). He is a noted speaker on welfare benefit issues and said:

“I give the Minister fair warning that I cannot support the benefit cap as it is currently cast and I hope that he will look at it very carefully. There are lots of reasons: for example, 70 per cent of those people are in social housing and 206,000 children will be the people who will carry the can for it. However, for me it is actually a question of principle. We have a system of entitlements in our social security system and, if you have the entitlements, you get the benefit. Here is an arbitrary system coming in and overlaying that by saying, "Well, you may well be entitled to it but we think it's too much". Parliament should not let that pass without some comment because it cuts straight across everything that we have known in the social security system…”

However my most cherished observation was of three peers, three women, three wheelchair users. They were seated side by side in the cross benches and illustrated better than anyone else how the Lords has changed in recent years.

Seated from left to right, Baroness Wilkins (Lab), Baroness Grey-Thompson, and cross bencher and finally Baroness Campbell of Surbiton (cross bench).

Baroness Campbell said:

“I should declare an interest as a DLA recipient. During the past 30 years, DLA, which in the olden days was called attendance allowance and mobility allowance, has enabled me to pass many milestones. Without it I would not have attended university. I used it to pay the cleaner to get me up in the morning and to put me to bed at night. That was the only allowance I had. I used it to get a job and to stop living with my parents-in short, to live independently. Along with millions of other disabled people, I will be affected by this Bill. The allowance was given to me for life and I am about to have my assessments again-I already have 25 other assessments. That is something to look forward to.”

Clearly tiring, her speech was taken over by Paralympics champion, Baroness Grey-Thompson (cross bench) who continued

"My life is like a house of straws. Once you remove one tiny straw, the house collapses. It's taken me years to feel independent and in control, to feel like an able-bodied person, to be human. If I lose out from the changes, I will stand to lose everything. Where's the sense in that?"

Finally from my trio of experts, Baroness Wilkins (Lab) said

“Disability living allowance is a complex benefit because disability is hugely complex and any reform needs to be done with great awareness of that complexity if it is not to leave disabled people more deprived and impoverished, denying millions the hope of living the independent lives that we have come to expect.
That awareness is sadly lacking from this Bill, as we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, just now. As all noble Lords' post bags and mail boxes have shown, disabled people live in great fear of it being enacted.

I only hope that I wasn’t the only person listening.

Monday, 22 August 2011

“…. we are interested in how to capitalize on the skill and will of communities to assist those who live amongst them ….”

Just back from holiday on Iain MacAulay’s turf in Barra. I had met a social worker and carer from Barra in Glasgow on World Social Work Day and decided then to visit this most southerly Hebridean Island.

The Western Isles were of course beautiful as ever; they always give me a new perspective on life and work but this time the contrast with daily life was heightened. As we sailed across the Minch, the 42” plasma TV in the lounge was fixed on Sky News serving up seven hours of live footage from English cities depicting young people walking away with similar 42” plasma TVs from scenes of dread and destruction.

Whatever your take on these events, I am sure that you will agree that they were remarkable in terms of scale, significance and risk. Thankfully they did not spread to Scotland, and while we must never be complacent about these matters, Scotland has been at the centre of much recent interest in this regard. Prime Minister, David Cameron has said that he wants to build on the success of programmes to tackle gang culture like the task force used by Strathclyde Police.

In 2008, a Centre for Social Justice report found the city was home to more than 170 gangs, more than the number estimated to be operating in London at that time. The past few years has seen concentrated efforts and financial investment by both the Scottish Government and Strathclyde Police to tackle the problem. The force set up a dedicated Gangs Task Force in March 2008, to serve as a specialist unit to identify, find and arrest gang members involved in crime. Meanwhile the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence was established in December 2008 to tackle collective violence in the East End. The government estimated there were 55 gangs operating in the East End alone, involving 700 young men aged from as young as 12 up to 23 years old. The CIRV, based on the success of the Boston Ceasefire project, aims to break the cycle of deprivation which led young men to join gangs by providing them with other options.

Closer to home, ADSW has led a relevant area of work in the area of young people at risk -  ‘Plusone Mentoring’- sponsored by local authorities, the Violence Reduction Unit (police), the Scottish Government and delivered by YMCA Scotland. In recent years we have moved steadily away from a reactive approach - treating problems - to one of identifying early risk in order to support an individual’s healthy development and potential.

Evidence from practice elsewhere (Farrington 1996; Whyte 2004) shows that a diversion from future persistent offending is possible by addressing the several areas where mentoring can have a positive effect, including social skills, self-esteem and independence, emotional resilience, engagement with institutions, school attendance and performance, or arrangements in family and community. The Plusone mentoring programme was developed to target young people most likely to move further into the youth justice system and to do this at a stage of their development when change in behaviour and attitudes might be most easily achieved.

The approach has achieved outstanding results with significant change in behaviour at the six month stage.
·    “improvement was particularly strong in risk factors associated with  behaviour (86% showed improvement);
·    the young people’s attitudes to offending and other anti-social behaviors (86%);
·    the level of risk for the young people presented by their neighbourhood (64%);
·    with developing young people’s skills and positive relationships (64%).”

The evaluations demonstrate that the Plusone mentoring programme combines significant efficiency savings and effective diversion from crime with the re-engagement of the young people in positive development and activity.

Pilot work in the Scottish Borders by YMCA Scotland since 2005 has been testing the optimum age of engagement and change for a vulnerable young person. Intervention should take place only where necessary and only last for as long as it remains necessary for the young person’s healthy development. The learning from the Borders and from a Danish-based approach to youth crime piloted in East Renfrewshire shaped this early intervention approach. It is unusual in its targeting of a wider age group -8-14 years -receiving its participants through the local authority multi-agency referral groups.

“Between them the referred young people had committed at least 104 offences, and the majority had been referred for behaviour problems at home, at school or in the community; for some, their offending appeared to be well established.

‘Plusone was found to have generated social value of over £1.05million for an investment of just under £108,000.”
“The social return from Plusone’s activities for each £1 of investment ranges between £6 and £13, with the most likely return being just under £10.”

Wendy Harrington led our work on this and she summed it up:

“ADSW’s interest in this work is wider than developing a successful youth justice approach, although that, in itself, is no small achievement. However, we are also interested in how to capitalize on the skill and will of communities to assist those who live amongst them and who need their support. We are interested in what kind of working relationships we need to create across the sectors so that we produce a better outcome for individuals and communities. Quite simply, right across the agencies, we need to trust each other as professionals and share our expertise, join up our processes and accept our individual limitations. ADSW is currently ‘unpicking’ the elements of this successful work and considering their application across different service groups, including with older people. Its very exciting…”

So there you have it, as I am always saying, Scotland has so much to commend to the UK and last week it seems people were starting to listen. I hope we can continue to share our ideas and as I mentioned in my July blog, I have blagged my way into two UK events this autumn. The Guardian Public Service Summit to be held in Edinburgh on 22nd September and before that the Inside Government event Adult Social Care Forum:  Delivering Quality Standards of Care where I shall speak alongside ADASS President Peter Hay in London on 13th. I will report these events in a future posting.