From Welfare to Charity?

Overview —

A history of Scottish social work as its delivery transitioned from a matter of government social security to a task for volunteers and the charity sector.


Colin Turbett

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An unintended consequence of devolution in Scotland has been an erosion of local democracy as the Scottish Government have sought to influence the outcome of their manifesto promises and legislative commitments through direct funding of projects. Understanding how this affects welfare provision and works against the spirit of current legislation is crucial to ensuring that the trend is not consolidated through a new National Care Service.

Key Points

― One of the Scottish Government’s motivations for taking care out of the hands of Local Authorities appears to be frustration at their limited ability to deliver that care.

― Rather than being a fundamental limit of localism, the history of Scottish social care shows that these limits are being driven by Austerity and underfunding as well as a centralisation agenda that will not be reversed by even more centralisation.

― As government retreated from the role of social work, charities and the voluntary sector were forced to step into the gap. While many performed admirably given their constrained resources, they often found themselves competing in an industry dominated by “big salaries and well-paid executives” as they fought for increasing fragmented pots of grant funding. This has resulted in poorer outcomes for those who need this care.

― This paper examines five key events that have precipitated the crisis in social care delivery:

  1. The reduction in social work’s status since the passing of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968.
  2. The introduction of neoliberal business/market models into the public and voluntary sectors.
  3. Devolution and the pressure on the Scottish Parliament to tackle Scotland’s social problems.
  4. The consequences of the integration of health and social care.
  5. Austerity and reductions in public spending.

― Common Weal has offered a blueprint for a National Care Service that would reverse the market model of care and offers this paper as a warning of what may happen if the Scottish Government continues with its plans as they currently stand.

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