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Opening a debate on the Social Services Workforce in the Scottish Parliament on 29 April 2010 Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years commented:

The skills, expertise and creativity of the people who work in social services must be fully utilised...Opportunities to share training, develop common skills and break down culture, language and technology barriers must be identified and grasped.

This report builds on existing evidence to argue the case for breaking down these cultural and technology barriers. The web has revolutionised the way we use and share information yet, despite the growing awareness of the value of social networking and social media, local authority staff frequently report that access to web-based services is blocked or that their web browser lacks the required functionality (for example some employers do not install the Flash plugin by default or have javascript enabled, while others use the out-dated Internet Explorer 6).

Changing Lives and the Continuous Learning Framework both emphasise the importance of knowledge sharing, management and transfer in the development of competent, confident and valued workforce. The Knowledge Management Strategy for Social Services highlights the importance of translating knowledge into practice to transform care and support. It recognises the role of knowledge in empowering the workforce, service users and carers with the resources, skills and confidence to ask questions, find and share knowledge, and use it as a vital part of day-to-day work and learning.

As long as the social services workforce is denied the opportunity to use, experiment with and find creative uses for these tools their skills and creativity may not be fully utilised in the way envisaged by the Minister.

While there are legitimate concerns about security of computer networks, the protection of personal data and the misuse of computer equipment, an increasing body of evidence suggests that these concerns can be addressed without imposing blanket bans on access to certain types of website.  Sensing a growing feeling of frustration, IRISS commissioned this report in order to:

  • review recent evidence about the potential of emerging technologies to support learning, development and collaboration.
  • Highlight the difficulties facing Scottish social services workers as they endeavour to improve their skills.