The biggest threat to social work is the profession itself.

That was the response from Harry Stevenson, the first president of Social Work Scotland (SWS) to the suggestion that his profession might be under threat with the arrival of greater integration of health and social services.

Speaking to the new organisation's annual conference in Crieff, he said social workers needed to be more confident of their role in a new era of multi-disciplinary working.

South Lanarkshire Council's executive director of social work, Mr Stevenson was marking the end of a 12-month process which has seen the end of the previous Association of Directors of Social Work and the launch of a new body SWS, to represent leaders in the field.

ADSW, used to represent directors of social work and senior managers in council social work teams. But with closer working between health and social services, and the reorganisation of local authority social services, such titles have become more fluid.

Now SWS is to open its doors to anyone working in social work, including leaders in the private sector and in charities. People without social work qualifications will also be entitled to join.

Like the integration of social care itself the move allows for a greater voice for social work, Mr Stevenson says. Other professionals, in the NHS for example, have done more to establish their professional roles, he believes.

"Social workers need to be clear about their role. Health professionals have been working together for decades and have set out their boundaries and found a way to work with each other," he said. "Social workers offer a great deal to multi-disciplinary teams, including our ability to see the world and communities in a holistic way, and prioritise the whole issue of social justice."

Social workers also have unique skills to manage often quite dangerous people in communities, working with the police, Mr Stevenson added.

Meanwhile SWS needs to be more inclusive than it was in its previous incarnation. "We work in a collaborative way in communities and it makes sense to speak for social work professionals in Scotland more broadly, not just for local authority social work," he added.

He is passionate about the increasing personalisation of services for those receiving them.

Some have expressed concerns about the level of resources in the community to support it - the Herald has called for an audit of services as part of our NHS Time for Action campaign.

Hospital bed-blocking, remains a problem.

But Mr Stevenson insists integration offers scope for better and more efficient services.

"I don't think legislation will resolve the issue. It is about improving communication and the right additional support."

Councils which have used reablement teams to prepare people leaving hospital to look after themselves have seen a 23 per cent reduction in the home care support needed, he explains.

"In the context of the pathway for the individual I'm confident there is mileage there. If we work in a more joined-up way, you can have the right professional for the task, for instance, you don't need to have three professionals visiting the same person. Where it works well, it really works."

However there will always be challenges about resources, he said. "It is a straightforward reality that we are looking at year-on-year reductions and pressures on budgets. There are issues about the availability of people at the right time: peak times such as mealtimes and bedtime, for example."

However integration is not just about better communication and organisation, he adds. It is a complete change of mindset

"If you are all working together with the same objectives, the chances are you will all make the best uses of the resources and time available."

While the new SWS will encourage even relatively junior social workers to become associate members, it will retain separate standing committees for chief social work officers to discuss issues such as procurement, he adds.

Meanwhile his presidency will see the organisation doing more to highlight social work issues with the government, especially through the chief social work adviser Alan Baird, himself a former ADSW president.

The organisation will also research ways in which children's services can be more integrated without putting existing safeguards at risk. "We don't want to marginalise and dis-integrate other systems that work well already," he explains.

Speaking up for social work will remain SWS' key role, though. "Social work is not just about coordinating and arranging things. Social workers are part of the fabric of the country, and should be confident in their skills" he adds.