Our social media presence


Up 369 on previous year


454 page likes
Up 62 on previous year
521 follows
Up 79 on previous year


Up 87 on previous year

Website statistics


Up 16,726 on previous year

Page views

Up 7,257 on previous year


75.1% new visitors
24.9% returning visitors



Scotland's social services podcast

New Iriss.fm episodes published


Total number of episodes


Plays of episodes

Topics covered by Iriss.fm this year ranged from adult social care recruitment, Humans of Scotland and SSSC Careers in Care, to people’s experiences of self-directed support, issues around youth justice, and research governance in social care.

“Another fab @irissorg podcast to accompany http://careersincare.scot – Sarah, Gillian and Deborah are great ambassadors for #socialcare. No-one is saying these jobs are easy, but they are so important and could be life-changing.”
“@DW_GCHSCP is #freshlysqueezed by @irissorg Worth a listen. Thoughts on social work and public service from recently appointed new Director of Delivery, Health & Social Care Integration @HSCIntegration”

Iriss On…

Self-care in health and social services

We produced eight papers for practitioners on defining particular approaches to support their understanding and reflection. Topics included: recording practice, duty of candour, Safe and Together, transformational change, co-production, the Buurtzorg model, Making Recovery Real and self-care in health and social care.

Each paper had a short insight from a practitioner about what the approach meant for them.

“Lovely case study by Lesley-Anne Exon, Staff Nurse, Forres Neighbourhood Care Team (NHS Grampian). She says it all really.”
“Good reading: A short paper on the Safe & Together approach to tackling #domesticabuse with insight from Andrea Davidson, Team Leader in a Children’s Social Work Practice Team.”


Social pedagogy and its relevance for Scottish social welfare book covers

The following Insights were commissioned in 2019/20:

“Important read when the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children is steadily increasing and more and more local authorities are supporting them.There's more than the legal implications for this group – it's also about delivering culturally competent and humble support”.
“A fantastic new @irissorg resource now available from @RaniaHamad11 who has so much practice wisdom and research knowledge in the field of addressing hate crime.”



Workshops delivered at key sector events or for other organisations


Total number of practitioners who attended sessions

Workshops covered themes ranging from co-production, outcomes and partnerships, to community social work, creative confidence and communicating with impact. These workshops supported us to build relationships in the sector, share our knowledge, and also provided us with opportunities to share our tools and resources.

"Really fascinating insight into how to communicate better – I will now restyle my presentations."
“…only half way through the event and I’ve got so many tips and tools to take back to the office and share with colleagues. I’m really keen to get my hands on that [co-production planner]. There are so many things in there to help guide our planning and make sure we are taking the right approach from the start.”
“I found the discussions and reflections to be very valuable. The tone and approach was very collaborative and within an empowering and encouraging atmosphere.”


Improving use of evidence

Navigating evidence

Navigating Evidence tool

Objective: To equip new qualified practitioners with the skills to access evidence for practice, improvement and learning

Partners: Learning Network West, SSSC and NHS Education for Scotland


We collaborated with the Evidence Search and Summary Service team and partners to identify existing knowledge and resources. This resulted in a decision to create a tool to support newly qualified social workers to navigate evidence. Ideas for the tool were sketched out and shared with partners. We then sought feedback from newly qualified social workers and those supporting them in their first year of practice.

Design of the tool was an iterative process based on the tools that we co-produced in other projects such as Pilotlight. The aim was to make a reflective tool that felt easy and fun to use while expanding practitioners’ knowledge and encouraging self reflection.

The tool was officially launched in February 2020 at the NQSW conference organised by Learning Network West. Iriss delivered a one-hour introductory workshop to the tool. It was enthusiastically received by those supporting newly qualified social workers, some of who planned to incorporate the tool into their practice.

Story of project achievements

  • The tool was introduced to 90 practitioners at three workshops
  • 450 print copies were distributed
  • There were 399 downloads of the digital version of the tool

The tool:

  • Contributes to the SSSC-run pilot of the ‘assessed and supported year’ to support newly qualified social workers
  • Enhances the capacity of the supported year to bridge evidence use in an educational setting with that of a professional setting
  • Provides opportunities for support staff to ensure that new practitioners have the skills and confidence to access evidence which is relevant for practice, improvement and learning
  • Is relevant for staff across social services in Scotland, and not only those in the supported year
  • Contributes to collaboration in the sector on implementing and embedding the approach to supporting newly qualified social workers and their employers
“The latest addition to my growing #SocialWork toolkit arrived today. A quick glance and can already tell it'll be a useful resource for the future @irissorg @StrathclydeWork” – Social work student
“Found this new resource on how to use #evidence in practice published by @irissorg excellent. It is aimed at social workers but likely to be useful to many others-including researchers working with/alongside practitioners” – Researcher

The workshops:

  • Improved general understanding and use of Iriss tools and approaches and their potential to improve practice
  • Increased engagement and debate around using evidence in social work practice
  • Increased use of creative approaches to foster transformational change
“The navigating evidence tool was the best part of the day”

Evaluation to date suggests that the tool will contribute to improved resilience of the workforce due to increased capacity for quality conversation and critical engagement with practice.

Lessons learned

  • Good relationship building leads to great tools and workshops that can be embedded in practice, but this takes time
  • Organisations lack resources to support staff to attend training or adopt new approaches – there are problems with diffusion, adoption, implementation, training and sustaining evidence-informed practice

Evidence Search and Summary service (ESSS)

ESSS researchers

Objective: To support the sector find and use evidence to improve practice

Partners: NHS Education for Scotland (NES), International Federation for Integrated Care (IFIC) and SSSC


The service responded to evidence queries as they came in, producing Outlines (summaries of evidence) conducting literature searches, and providing follow-up support. Over the year, ESSS worked with 10 independent and third sector organisations, and local authorities across Scotland, including Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Lothian, Dundee and Stirling.

It also supported five International Federation of Integrated Care (IFIC) webinars and contributed to a number of events, including Spring into Evidence and SSSC evidence and improvement events.

In March 2020, an online learning tool to support the workforce develop skills in finding and using evidence, was launched.

Story of service achievements

From feedback, it is apparent that our events and online learning tool increased individuals’ confidence to find and use evidence.

“Thanks, a useful and not often seen resource. Helped clarify some of the things that hold me back from writing up a paper.”

The Outlines:

  • Help frontline staff overcome time barriers when it comes to accessing evidence, as well as accessibility barriers such as free access to information or clarity of information
  • Are often used for training, to implement or support service change, for service improvement or to develop new services
  • Provide a way to promote ESSS as some inquirers reached out after reading our existing ESSS outlines
  • Create a pathway to provide ongoing support to organisations
“Very helpful service. Encouraging and honest feedback that provided an excellent steer and allowed me to confidently progress the project.”
“Thank you to the ESSS Service for helping to support our project which looks at how Technology Enabled Care (TEC) can be used by local systems in Aberdeen City, to support people experiencing domestic abuse – ACVO”

The ESSS Safe and Together approach Outline is being used by other local authorities to inform their Safe and Together strategy.

Lessons learned

  • To stay connected with developments happening in social services, we need to be more proactive in our evidence searches and conduct horizon scanning for potential ‘hot’ topic areas that are developing. This will allow us to anticipate the future support the workforce might need and it will allow us to produce more critical and robust evidence resources.
  • As technology is embedded in both service provision but also service infrastructure we realise it is essential we move towards more visually accessible, digital ways of presenting and publicising evidence outlines. This would help reduce the time needed to engage with our resources and would improve their overall accessibility.

Supporting knowledge exchange

Spring into evidence event

Objective: Improve the awareness and confidence of practitioners in using evidence in practice

Partners: Audit Scotland, SSSC, Care Inspectorate


This project involved the delivery of two events: an Evidence Cafe; and a full-day Spring into Evidence event.

The cafe set out to explore one of our popular ESSS Outlines: Newly qualified social workers, supervision and child protection. Over 10 people registered, but we had low attendance on the day and so refocused the delivery plan going forward.

The Spring into Evidence event focused on raising awareness about support and information available for social services workers to find and use evidence in their practice. 47 practitioners and managers attended from public, third and independent sector organisations. The day's programme consisted of a mix of plenary presentations, activities and breakout workshops with inputs from Iriss, SSSC, Care Inspectorate and Audit Scotland.

Story of project achievements

Overall the feedback from the Spring into Evidence event showed that it had offered useful information, learning, and signposting to resources and support for people who were not confident in using evidence to inform practice.

Half the participants recorded a sense of increased self confidence about finding and using evidence in practice after participating in the event. People who did not record an increase in confidence had rated themselves at the start of the day as either ‘quite confident’ or ‘confident’ with finding and using evidence. More widely people reported the breakout workshops as being helpful spaces for discussion and reflection.

This work also improved the Iriss team’s understanding of methods that engage workforce with evidence by trialling different approaches to doing this.

“Refreshed knowledge and reinforced importance of using evidence to improve services”

What people said they would do differently:

  • Reflect and make time to discuss with colleagues
  • Review supervision regularly and connect supervision with practice
  • Find a complementary mix of evidence methodology
  • Consider and be mindful of evidence biases
  • Use diverse sources of evidence and recognise limitations of certain types of evidence

Lessons learned

  • The Evidence Cafe format – a two-hour session with a specific theme – was too focused to engage sufficient practitioners. This was reworked and through our Evidence Search and Summary Service (ESSS), we offered free one-to-one tailored support sessions to practitioner teams to plan for, find and start to use evidence in practice.
  • Feedback from people at the events, who were already self-rated ‘confident’ in finding and using evidence, suggests that they would appreciate more in-depth or advanced sessions around using evidence – and this could be related to offering support around analysis of the data and evidence they collect for service improvement.

Supporting sector improvement

Recording practice

group of practitioners

Objective: Explore and improve recording practice within a Health and Social Care Partnership.

Partners: East Ayrshire HSCP


  • Three half day workshops with 18 practitioners from across the HSCP services
  • Three senior management update meetings
  • Presentation with three East Ayrshire practitioners from the group about the project and initial impacts to Personal Outcomes Network quarterly meeting, Clydebank (Feb 24th 2020)
  • Anticipated feedback discussion session to East Ayrshire Leadership Forum (postponed due to COVID-19)

Story of project achievements

The project engaged practitioners from the partner HSCP in workshops that were interactive, creative and ultimately produced a set of agreed principles and indicators to support making good quality case notes.

Feedback from the workshops demonstrates that practitioners felt encouraged to work with colleagues from their own service, as well as in mixed service groups. They valued being part of a project that recognised their professional knowledge, and gave them the opportunity to test out ideas to improve practice and learn from colleagues. A high level of ongoing attendance at the three workshops also showed enthusiasm and commitment to participation.

Senior management have responded positively to updates from the project and anticipate taking forward embedding work based on recommendations and principles generated by the workshops. Colleagues from Learning and Development in East Ayrshire Social Work have requested to use some of the test, reflect, review tools that we developed for the workshops so that they can continue to support further recording practice ideas testing undertaken by practitioners who were part of our project.

A first iteration of a tool has been developed based on the workshops in East Ayrshire but will not be published until further development and piloting in 2020/21.

What resonates for practitioners as a result of this work:

  • Realising we do some things really well!
  • How much thought we should put into what we record
  • Remembering the future reader
  • Evidencing decision making
  • Recording in a person centred way
  • Reflecting on my own practice
“Because of this workshop I found myself thinking more about what and how I write.”
“It was an opportunity to talk about an aspect of our work that we usually perform uncritically/ automatically”

Lessons learned

Working on a complex area with a diverse group of practitioners from different services brought a range of expectations and judgements about what ‘good’ recording looks like. The project also highlighted the breadth of recording for different purposes, in different settings and using different tools to do this that can be found in and across a Health and Social Care Partnership. We found early on that asking people to work on activities straight away in mixed service groups could be challenging as these differences could create a barrier to understanding.

We found that the most effective approach for activities around the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of recording was for people to work in service-specific groups. Then we facilitated discussion to draw out commonalities/ differences across service groups from there. This helped people within the same service to connect with each other and reflect on what works well in their service and ‘how they do it’. It also allowed us as facilitators to better support a whole-group conversation as we became more aware of different perspectives or understandings across services, and could support conversation to unpack this, rather than these differences staying within small group discussions and not being resolved.

Read the project reports.

Commissioning adult social care

Brightly coloured water lilly

Objective: Explore the impact of the Health and Social Care Standards on commissioning

Partners: No specific partners


  • Two roundtable discussion events for commissioners of adult social care. March event postponed due to Covid-19.
  • In the first discussion we explored: commissioner reflections on the impact so far of the Standards on their commissioning activities; looked into the principle of compassion in commissioning; and horizon scanning towards the future.

Story of project achievements

In total 31 people registered for both events. Participants included those in commissioning roles from public, independant and third sector organisations, as well as social services organisations.

Through the first commissioners event we started to unpack the early impact of the Standards for some commissioners, and how they envisage future commissioning practice can be supported by further embedding of the Standards and other Health and Social Care Integration work.

“Really interesting conversations and better insight into how people feel about the Standards”
“Taking the headspace to think this through has made me re-focus on the value of compassionate commissioning and how I can promote this through practice”

Read the project report.

Celebrating rural social work

Participants at Dumfries event

Objective: Bring social workers together from dispersed areas to celebrate rural social work, share good practice and understand how it’s different and can contribute to urban social work

Partners: Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Association of Social Work, Social Work Scotland, University of the West of Scotland and Lancaster University, UNISON


There was a series of planning meetings involving partners to plan for and deliver the event on 11 March 2020.

Story of project achievements

Over 100 people attended the event on 11 March 2020 in Dumfries and 94% rated the event ‘excellent or good’ overall.

The event recognised that rural social work sits outside the mainstream and dominant discourse, and is ‘remote’ just like the areas it works in, often overlooked, under-researched or simply ‘missing’.

It provided a rare and exciting opportunity for those working in rural contexts to come together, and included contributions from across Scotland, and colleagues working in the other countries of the UK – from as far North as Shetland and as far south as Wales.

“Great to see so many attendees at Dumfries celebration of rural social work! From Orkney to France to us here in the locality #ruralsocialwork”
“At the Celebrating Rural Social Work Conference in Dumfries. Great to see so many rural local authorities staff attending to celebrate the work we do day in and day out #ruralsocialwork”
“Yesterday's #ruralsocialwork conference in Dumfries amazing – brought together over 100 mostly front line workers who don't get to such things. We shared experiences and good social work practice – hidden but always there. Well done @irissorg @ScotsSW and others.”

Discussions and plans are afoot to maintain and develop networks contingent upon future funding decisions.

Lessons learned

  • The importance of working in partnership with others to pull in expertise, additional funding, and make the best use of everyone's knowledge/contacts/networks/skills/time and energies.
  • Matched funding was vital in being able to support travel expenses and costs of contributors from remote and diverse rural communities.
  • It demonstrates the importance of creativity and tenacity in overcoming challenges. We had to change our venue late in the day due to university strikes; lost a keynote speaker due to illness close to the event, as well as a workshop lead; and the Chief Social Work Adviser had to pull out from opening the event due to the Coronavirus crisis that was just emerging.
  • The day also used technology (trialled by UWS) to allow people from other parts of the UK and overseas to join remotely, to develop and open up capacity for connectedness. This was a learning experience for all.

Supporting the emerging workforce

NQSW conference delegates 2019

Objective: Improve the knowledge and skills of newly qualified social workers and final year HN students; have an eye to the future with key themes around person-centred and person-led care

Partners: College Development Network, the ALLIANCE, Early Years Scotland, Dundee and Angus College, University of the West of Scotland, Scottish Social Services Council, Heads of Social Work Education and OCSWA


There were numerous planning and development meetings with the various partners in respect of two events: ‘What Matters to Us Conference’ aimed at final year HN students destined for a career in social care or early years and course leaders; and ‘Shaping our Future: relationships matter’ – a conference for Newly Qualified Social Workers.

Story of project achievements

The Shaping our future conference, held on 31 May 2019 at the University of Strathclyde was a great success, with a conference report capturing key themes, messages and further links.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus crisis, the What Matters to Us Conference (planned for 20 March 2020) was cancelled, despite the programme being ready to go.

The colleges remain committed to working with us, and we hope to continue the annual What Matters to Us Conference and explore other opportunities for joint working, going digital to do so. We also hope that the NQSW Conference will remain a commitment for all partners as we move forward- with the one planned for May 2020 put on hold.

Lessons learned

  • There are only so many things you can plan for…Coronavirus was not one of the eventualities that we had envisaged. It does, however, raise questions about alternative online delivery methods we might need to investigate/develop as we go forward.
  • For the What Matters to Us Conference, March 2020, we had developed a programme. We might be able to re-run this in 2021, or it might be considered as an online resource, depending on how long the pandemic takes to run its course, and implications are known.

Transforming services for people using digital technology

illustration of video chat

Objective: Mapping activities and exploring experiences of transformation and the potential offered by digital technology to improve the experiences of both citizens and staff

Partners: Scottish Government Technology-enabled Care programme, COSLA, wider Digital Health and Care Strategy partners


  • Interviews with national delivery partners and key stakeholders
  • Online information searches to source and map high level work programmes related to digital service transformation
  • A workshop in September 2019 with partners to present and sense-check initial findings
  • Analyse, draft, consult on and finalise a research report

Story of project achievements

  • 43 people participated in interviews
  • 30 workshop participants

Overall, what was evident from this research project was a shared understanding about the importance of transformation and the potential offered by digital technology to improve the experiences of both citizens accessing and staff working in health, social care, social services and housing. There were strong opinions about the challenges posed by digital service transformation, but equally strong commitment and enthusiasm for meeting these together. There was a definite sense of progress being made and good examples of collaboration between national delivery partners and key stakeholders.

The research findings helped to shape a number of priorities and principles. These will be used as a framework for national delivery partners and key stakeholders to reflect and collaborate on present, next and future steps.

Lessons learned

  • Important to plan research methods in line with timescale expectations. This was a lengthy project, more so than originally thought, mainly because evidence gathering was via semi-structured interviews, many of these with more than one person. It generated a considerable amount of data which took time to sift, analyse and create a narrative to communicate to partners.
  • There is value in sense-checking initial findings as per the workshop, and including partners and research participants throughout the research process to keep them invested. The draft report was also shared to capture early feedback which strengthened the final report.

Online learning

illustration of moather and child

Objective: To update two short, accessible online learning resources for practitioners

Partners: Sally Wassell, Childcare Consultant and Trainer; and National Learning and Development Adult Support & Protection Group


The project involved the update of two Iriss online learning resources, including text, video content, illustration and reading lists.

Attachment theory in practice was written by Sally Wassell, an expert in attachment theory, who had co-authored our original resource in 2011.

The Online safety and wellbeing of adults at risk of harm was developed with the assistance of the National Learning and Development Adult Support & Protection Group. Iriss conducted an evidence review on this area for a practitioner working in adult protection. The evidence itself was relatively sparse, so by working with others working in adult protection in Scotland we decided the best way forward was to highlight some of this evidence, but also provide links to resources that would help others think through this area and their practice.

Story of project achievements

The evidence on the topic of attachment has been updated, with a focus on policy and implications and learning for practitioners. This was commented on by subject and policy leaders before final publication. The resource was further strengthened by including perspectives from two experienced practitioners working in the fields of adoption and fostering, and parenting and assessment. The video excerpts from the practitioners were interspersed through the text to bring to life some of the theory and the key practice points.

The online safety learning resource links to the wider adult support and protection agenda and highlights current information, evidence and help that is out there for practitioners in this area. It has resulted in a short introductory resource and also provides enough references and links for those going through the resource to explore particular areas that they are interested in. This process also helped us identify further work that we (and partners) are keen to develop around adult protection.

Lessons learned

  • The attachment resource relied on the knowledge and experience of Sally to be able to pull all the aspects of evidence, policy and practitioner perspective together – we were then able to design and develop the vehicle for this through the final learning resource, editing the videos, structuring the pages/layout and adding our own illustration. Given the length of the learning object, this has all come together to provide a hugely robust, yet engaging resource.
  • Having discovered that there was a relatively small evidence base around the area of online safety for adults at risk of harm, it was crucial that we spoke to practitioners with expertise in this area to gain their perspective on what would be most useful. This let us expand solely from presenting evidence, to highlighting useful resources around certain topics. It also gave us confidence in presenting a shorter resource than we normally would, knowing that there was an identified gap in awareness about online safety with adults at risk of harm.
  • We learned through the work that there is a lot of resonance between online and offline risk and that many of the behaviours and approaches that can be used to mitigate this risk are good practice in both settings.
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