Leading figure in social work

Leading figure in social work

Born: March 3, 1925; Died: October 21, 2013

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Joe Scott, who has died aged 88, was a former probation officer and social worker who became one of the leading figures in social work in Scotland.

As chairman of the Scottish Parole Board in the mid-1990s and director of the Talbot Association, which provides accommodation and support for homeless men and women in Glasgow, among many other roles, he made an outstanding contribution to social work in Scotland, particularly in his work with offenders.

He was born in Motherwell to his mother Susan and father John, who was a steel worker. He was the youngest of a family of four boys and one girl and was brought up in a loving, supportive, devoutly Catholic home, which laid the foundations for his successful career in social work.

In July 1943, he left Our Lady's High School, Motherwell, and chose to enlist in the Royal Navy rather than go to Glasgow University to study physics. On Christmas Eve that year, he was on the destroyer HMS Hurricane when it was hit by a U-boat torpedo.

He was one of the three seamen on a depth charge station and the other two insisted that he stand aside as he was a rookie.

This saved his life as the two men were killed and Mr Scott suffered only concussion and minor injuries.

Discharged in 1946 as a petty officer, Mr Scott said his experience in the Navy had taught him two things - the preciousness of life and how to relate to people with different values from himself and see the positive in them.

He was employed until 1953 with an engineering company but gave up a promising career to become a probation officer with Lanarkshire probation service. He sometimes commented how lucky he was to be paid to help others.

By 1960, he had become deputy to the principal probation officer, an acknowledgement of his phenomenal commitment, enthusiasm and skills. He made a huge contribution to winning the confidence of the somewhat sceptical judiciary and elected representatives in the effectiveness of probation as an alternative to imprisonment.

The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 combined welfare, childcare and the probation departments into social work departments and Mr Scott was appointed deputy director for Motherwell and Wishaw in 1969. He rose to the challenge of integrating staff, establishing new children's panels and earned a reputation as a highly effective manager of change and developing services.

He led the way in establishing effective local joint working between health and social work services which was widely recognised at the time as a model of excellence. He also chaired a region-wide review of social work offenders services which effected huge improvements.

When he retired from Strathclyde in 1985, he continued with an active professional career. He had been appointed to the Scottish Parole Board in 1982 and was its chair from 1993 until he retired in 1995. He fulfilled other wide roles as vice chairman of SACRO (the Scottish Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders), chair of the Pastoral and Social Care Commission of the Catholic Church and vice convener of the Ecumenical Joint Prisons Chaplaincy Board.

In 1989, he worked for a year as a director of the Talbot Association which provides accommodation and support for homeless men and women in Glasgow.

He did an excellent job updating management and practices for the care of this most vulnerable group and left behind a three-year development plan. Later he served for many years on the board of the association.

Locally, he served on the school boards of St Thomas primary and St Aidans secondary and was active in Wishaw Probus club; he was president of the club from 1999 to 2000.

He will be remembered by all who knew him as warm and compassionate and devoted to his family and to helping his fellow man. He commanded great respect for his integrity, humanity, leadership and common sense.

He married Margaret Connor in 1950 and they had four children, Margaret, John, Susan and Colin. They were renowned for the warm reception everyone who visited them received and their hosting of wonderful parties.

Margaret pre-deceased Joe in February 2012. He is survived by his four children, 14 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.