Radical changes to social services imagined for Scotland in 2025

Published on 21 Nov 2014
Imagining the Future

Social services in Scotland will not exist in 2025, according to a scenario published today at a special launch event at the Scottish Parliament.

The 'New Normal' scenario, set in 2025, describes a future where there is no stigma for people accessing services as everyone does access them to some degree; it's just normal - the new normal. Flexible personal budgets have enabled people to move away from traditional services and many people mix and match their care with local authority and private services. Many also choose to hire self-employed personal assistants (PAs) to help them with daily tasks.

However, in a different scenario - the 'Post Welfare World' - where there is increasing need and dwindling state resources, social services have largely become the responsibility of family and wider community, and state provision is minimal. Welfare and care benefits no longer exist, and instead, every person is paid a Citizens Income, which is expected to be topped up by local paid employment.

Other scenarios paint a bleaker picture for social services in the future. The 'Fully Integrated World' depicts a world driven by technocratic health systems where managerialism is central to its seamless operations. While many benefit, many more find this world hard to navigate, faceless and lacking humanity.

In the fourth scenario, 'Yesterday is Another World', attitudes of health care providers and social workers are seen as the main barrier to progress. This world describes a failing social services system locked into 20th century values and ways of working.

Professor Alison Petch, Director of IRISS explained,

'These scenarios are provocations not predictions. 'Imagining the Future' is a powerful tool to help those involved in social services think and reflect on how they are planning for the coming decade. The scenarios have been designed to stimulate debate and challenge our assumptions'.

Mary Duffy, who led the Reference Group and oversaw the year-long project added,

'No one can predict what the future will hold, but Imagining the Future scenarios have been based on six months research exploring what we know is driving change in social services, and on professional and community hopes for the future'.

Imagining the Future scenarios are entitled: Post Welfare World, New Normal World, Yesterday in Another World and Fully Integrated World. The website includes resources that enable individuals and groups to engage with the scenario materials.

Explore the future with Imagining the Future.


The Iriss is a charity organisation that promotes better outcomes for people who use social services in Scotland. It works to enhance the capacity and capability of the social services workforce to access and make use of knowledge and research for service innovation and improvement.