Scotland’s Social Services Champions – Protected Learning Event, Edinburgh

PhD candidate Julie Christie recently attended a protected learning event for Scotland’s Social Services Dementia Champions in Edinburgh. Here is her feedback from the event:

“I am a part time PhD candidate in my 5th year of research considering the topics of resilience, dementia and social work practice. I am working with Professor Brigid Daniel, Dr Brenda Gillies and Dr Fiona Kelly. I was asked by colleagues at the SSSC (Scottish Social Services Council) to attend a protected learning event for Scotland’s Social Services Dementia Champions. The Dementia Champions Development Programme is a national initiative supported by NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and SSSC. Following completion of the course learning, Dementia Champions focus on bringing about improvements in the experiences of people affected by dementia as they interact with public services. This includes consideration of care, treatment and support outcomes.

As background to this work, in 2010 the Dementia Strategy for Scotland introduced Standards of Care for People with Dementia. The standards are applicable to all health and social care settings. At the same time the Promoting Excellence Knowledge Framework was introduced to facilitate practitioners’ developing awareness, skills and knowledge on the subject of dementia. To support these changes Dementia Champions were invited from a range of health and social care backgrounds.

I was asked by the SSSC to deliver two presentations, one on the subject of resilience and dementia and the other on social work practice and dementia. Resilience is a concept that is still being tested in the context of dementia. Definitions are unclear and use of resilience materials from other fields is not a natural fit. Additionally this social care is delivered to those people most in need or to those considered vulnerable. Hence the interaction of all of these factors is a complex process. My own research involves working with dyads of people who have dementia and their social workers, and the analysis of narratives and social work assessments.

At the protected learning session there was a sense of purpose and connection. There was also an acknowledgement that research and evidenced based social care practice in the field of dementia is essential. All of the Social Services Dementia Champions across Scotland were invited and key members of the SSSC team, delivering the Promoting Excellence framework were also there. I also had the pleasure of having one of my PhD supervisors, Dr Brenda Gilles, there to hear the work being delivered to an audience of enquiring practitioners and peers. Anne Tavendale, Workforce Development and Planning Adviser- Promoting Excellence at SSSC is the lead officer for this work.

Anne said: “Julie’s presentation and facilitated group discussions with our social services champions both informed and energised this key group of our workforce leading changes within their localities. Participants all fed back positively on their learning from Julie’s work and we asked each to comment on plans to take their learning back to the workplace and share with others. Here are a few quotes: “Julie has helped me to look at things differently and to think about my own perceptions of a person with dementia, and how this can affect my assessment and professional relationship with them”. “I plan to take forward the concept of resilience and dementia within my own organisation using our online learning platform” Whilst the concept of resilience and its importance in relation to people with dementia, their carers and professionals was new for some, Julie was able to support participants to make sense of this within their own context. We look forward to future work together as we all take steps to improve the outcomes for people living with dementia”

I was delighted with this real time feedback. I left the event with new contacts, a clearer focus on my research and critical questions about the complexity of the “resilient person with dementia” for social work practice.

If you would like further information about Julie’s research please e-mail at You can also follow Julie on Twitter @juliechristie1.