Headlines: June 13th, 2005

A seminar in Scotland today will look at what action needs to be taken to sustain the current numbers of staff working in children’s services. The event, Working for the Future: re-imagining the children’s sector workforce, will bring together leading professionals in children’s services to look at the roles and relationships of those who work in the field.An estimated 150,000 people now work in the sector in Scotland with the number continuing to rise. The seminar will pose questions to find out if it is possible to sustain the workforce in its current form and if not, how it needs to change. The event has been organised by Children in Scotland, the International Futures Forum and the Scottish Council Foundation on behalf of the Scottish Parliament’s Future’s Forum.

Researchers from Hungary and Sweden will be among the speakers alongside leading practitioners and policy experts from around the UK. It is hoped the seminar will encourage lively debate about the challenges confronting children’s services and their implications for policy and practice.

Bronwen Cohen, the Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said there was a real need to review the future requirements of the children’s sector workforce across the full range of services, including childcare, education, health and social work as well as the more informal areas of arts and play activities. “At the moment they are being reviewed separately, which seems out of step with the emphasis the Scottish Executive is placing on joined-up working and outcomes focused policies,” she said.

She said it was already clear, for example, that improving the health of Scotland’s children needed more than input from the health services and that informal outdoor activities as well as pre-school services and schools could contribute to this. It was also known that if a child was to do well at school it should be both physically and mentally healthy, and might require input from social services.

She added, “New kinds of professionals are already emerging in other European countries. For example, in Sweden there is now a new kind of teacher qualified to work with children and young people aged between 0 and 19 in both formal and less formal settings. All trainees, whether they want to work with 15-month-olds or 15-year-olds, have the same common core training lasting 18 months. Denmark has also radically reformed its workforce.”