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Timeline :: Social Work (Scotland) Act passed

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The Social Work (Scotland) Act was passed in 1968, bringing about a major re-organisation of social services, and implementing the main recommendations of the 1964 Kilbrandon Committee. Cooper points out that the period from October 1964 to April 1966 had seen the coming together of a 'coalition of interests'; Judith Hart MP, Joint Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland (1964-66) had been a graduate of LSE where Richard Titmuss had been her tutor, and she brought together a committee that included Titmuss and Kay Carmichael (head of the social work course at Glasgow University) and Megan Browne (head of social work at Edinburgh University, and Kay Carmichael's former tutor on the Psychiatric SW course).

Following the passing of the Act, a Working Party funded by Rowntree Memorial Trust met to explore how the Act would be operationalised in practice, with Professor Tom Burns (Sociology) and Professor John Spencer (Social Administration) from Edinburgh University on the group. It reported twice in 1969 (see full references below).

The Act set up 52 social work departments in counties of cities, counties and larger burghs (the agreed commencement date was 1969). Also Section 12(1) stated: "It shall be the duty of every local authority to promote social welfare by making available advice, guidance and assistance on such a scale as may be appropriate for their area…." This developed the key principle that had been at the heart of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963, by extending the legislation to the whole community. Section 12 provided a platform for the subsequent sections, which dealt with children, adults and criminal justice, as provisions for promoting community wellbeing.

The entry on the Kilbrandon Committee gives more information on background.

McCulloch and McNeill (2010) argue that the bringing in of probation into the generic social work service reflected two pragmatic concerns: firstly, once juveniles were transferred to the new social work departments, there would not have been a viable workload for the probation services; secondly, probation officers were considered the best trained social workers, so were expected to play an important role in the new departments (though this did not, in fact, happen).

For further information, see Social Work History Network papers on the Unification of Social Work Services and of Organisations of Social Workers, 1963-1971.

Further reading

Asquith, S. (ed.) (1995) The Kilbrandon Report: Children and Young Persons Scotland, Children in Society Series, Edinburgh: HMSO.

Clyde Report (1992) The Report of the Inquiry into the Removal of Children from Orkney in February 1991

Cooper, J. (1983) The Creation of the British Personal Social Services 1962-1974, London: Heinemann.

Donnison, D. (2017) (ed.) It Takes a Lifetime to Become Yourself, A Collection of Writings Kay Carmichael, Edinburgh: Scotland Street Press.

Guthrie, T. (2011) Social Work Law in Scotland, Third edition, London: Bloomsbury Professional.

Kearney, B. (1992) The Report of the Inquiry into Child Care Policies in Fife.

McBoyle Report (1963) on Child Care (Cmnd 1966).

McCulloch, T and McNeill, F. (2010) 'Criminal justice social work in Scotland', Revisita de Asistenja Sociala, anul IX nr 3/2010, 21 - 38.

Rowe, A.J.B. (nd) The Future of Scottish Social Work (A Re-examination of Social Work and the Community), Edinburgh: Department of Social Study, Edinburgh University – cited in Rowntree Memorial Trust Working Party Notes (below).

Rowntree Memorial Trust Working Party (1969) Social Work Scotland Act 1968. Preliminary Notes on Bringing the Act into Effect, Edinburgh: Department of Social Study, Edinburgh University.

Scottish Education and Scottish Home and Health Departments (1966) White Paper, Social Work and the Community, Edinburgh: HMSO (Cmnd 3065).

Scottish Home and Health Department and Scottish Education Department (1964) Children and Young Persons, Scotland, Report by the Committee Appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Edinburgh: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, Cmnd 2306.

United Nations (1989) Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Working Party (1969) Social Work in Scotland, Report of a Working Party on the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, Edinburgh: Department of Social Administration, University of Edinburgh.