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Social Work Inspection Agency: Performance Inspection Orkney Islands Council 2006


Chapter 2: Context


The inspection of Orkney Islands Department of Community Social Services took place from June to October 2006. Our inspection team consisted of SWIA inspectors, associate inspectors, a lay inspector and a carer inspector.

During the inspection we read a wide selection of material about the local authority and the social work services it provides or commissions. We analysed questionnaires received from staff, people who use services, carers, stakeholders and children and young people. We spent four days reading case files and a further nine days in Orkney on fieldwork looking at services.

During fieldwork, we spoke to people who use services, their carers and people who were responsible for delivering or arranging services. We met with representatives from a range of organisations and groups as well as elected members and other stakeholders. We also visited places where social work services were provided. As a result, we collected a very wide range of information that informs this report.

This report is not a detailed description of all the social work services in Orkney. It gives an overview and concentrates on positive work being undertaken with people who need assistance and the areas where improvements are needed. It does not duplicate the inspection of services which are regulated by the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care (Care Commission).

Area profile

Orkney has a population of just under 20,000 with most people (80%) living on the Orkney Mainland, the largest and main island.

The archipelago that comprises Orkney begins six miles north of the Scottish mainland across the Pentland Firth. There are 70 islands and skerries covering an area of 974 square kilometres, of which more than half is taken up by the Orkney Mainland. The islands are about 85 km from north to south and 37 km from east to west, 19 of the islands are inhabited. Kirkwall is the capital with a population of 7,500. The smallest town is Stromness with a population of 2,500 and is situated to the west of the Mainland.

The outlying isles to the north and south of the Mainland have populations ranging from around 600 to a single family. 11% of the population live on the Northern Isles (Westray, Papa Westray, North Ronaldsay, Sanday, Stronsay, Eday, Shapinsay and Rousay) and the remaining 9% live in the Southern Isles (Hoy, Flotta, Burray and South Ronaldsay). Burray and South Ronaldsay are connected to Orkney Mainland by a series of causeways (the Churchill Barriers). These can be inaccessible in certain sea states. Regular ferry and air connections link many of the isles to the Orkney Mainland however these can be affected by stormy weather for several days at a time during the winter, cutting the islands off from the Orkney Mainland. Although the islands are geographically isolated, air links have been developed with Aberdeen, Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The Orkney economy has had a traditional reliance on agriculture and fishing. However, over the last 20 years there has been a growth in employment in a number of economic sectors including manufacturing and tourism and more recently, food processing.

Unemployment levels in Orkney are among the lowest in the country. The unemployment rate in Orkney is 1.7% which is lower than the Scottish rate which is 3.3% and long-term unemployment in Orkney has fallen by 29% in the last year, compared to a rise in Scotland as a whole. However, unemployment amongst 18-24s in Orkney has risen faster than Scotland as a whole in the last year.

85% of working age people in Orkney are economically active. This is significantly higher than the Scotland average of 79%. The employment rate in Orkney is 83%. This is significantly higher than the Scotland average of 75%. The majority of people with a job are employed by a company or a public or voluntary sector organisation, a sizeable number are self employed (24%).

The number of jobs in Orkney has increased by 19% between 1997 and 2004 (Scotland has increased by 12%). Manufacturing jobs in Orkney have decreased by 23% and services sector jobs have increased by 26%. The average full time weekly wage in 2004 in Orkney was £406 compared with a national average of £460.

This presents significant challenges to recruit and retain sufficient social work and social care staff.

Organisation of social work services in Orkney

Orkney Islands Council was established in 1974 and is Britain's smallest local authority. With around 1,800 staff, they are the county's biggest employer. Like the other 31 Scottish Councils it is a "most purpose" authority, with duties and powers covering a wide range of activities; in addition it is a harbour authority whose duties include the regulation of a busy oil port. Administratively the area is divided into 21 wards each returning a councillor. Currently, all members of Orkney Islands Council are independent councillors. The business of the council is effected by standing committees which have functions referred and delegated by the council and carried out by 7 departments. These are Finance and Housing, Community Social Services, Education and Recreation Services, Technical Services, Development and Protective Services, Harbours and the Chief Executive's Department. Appendix 2 contains a diagram of the structure of social work services.

Orkney Islands Council is working in partnership with agencies such as Orkney Enterprise, Orkney College and NHS Orkney to develop a skilled, well-educated workforce.

The main challenges for public sector agencies involve maintaining Orkney's lead role in developing renewable energy and helping fragile isles communities build a firm future for themselves and for future generations.

Map 1: Orkney Islands

Map 1: Orkney Islands

The geography of Orkney, changes in the Islands' demographics and features of the Islands' economy put added pressures on the delivery of social services for this local authority.

Inspection methodology and process

The structure of this report is based on the SWIA performance inspection model, which asks six key questions:

1. What key outcomes have we achieved?
2. What impact have we had on people who use services and other stakeholders?
3. How good is our delivery of key processes?
4. How good is our management?
5. How good is our leadership?
6. What is our capacity for improvement?

The following chapters address each of these questions in turn.

A more detailed description of the inspection methodology and the way in which we carried out our inspection are included in appendix 1.

Criminal justice services in Orkney

Local authority criminal justice social work services are subject to a separate inspection programme that has been running since October 2004. Criminal justice services in Orkney were inspected at the same time as the performance inspection. A full report on the findings of this inspection is available from SWIA at www.swia.gov.uk