It isn't often that I get to combine my role here at the paper with my interest in science-fiction.

(Though anyone subjected to my Society Awards speech about Doctor Who and political correctness might argue that it's already quite often enough).

But another opportunity arises with the fascinating papers published this week by Glasgow's Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (Iriss). The Imagining the Future project comprises four scenarios envisaging the world of social services in 2025.

Commissioned by the chief social work advisor Alan Baird, the reports are the culmination of a huge amount of research and workshopping, taking in the views of everyone from Care Inspectorate chief Annette Bruton to community activists in Govan.

The four outcomes are described as "worlds" and the fact that three could possibly be described as dystopias adds to the sci-fi feel. The way they are presented - with ideas conveyed through apparently leaked memos, imaginary blogs by anonymous social workers and reports from fictional radio stations - makes them quite the most accessible coverage of social work and social services I think I have ever read.

The purpose is serious, however. Taking a number of real elements (the ageing demographic, increased use of care technology, an ever diminishing social security system, for example), the four vignettes consider different ways they might play out.

In Yesterday is Another World, health and social services are near collapse, as integration of health and social care has failed due to a lack of leadership. A crisis in social care leads to regular social disorder.

By contrast, in the Fully Integrated World merging of services has been a success. But technology means care is delivered remotely and services are limited for those who can't pay. The Post-Welfare World sees every person receiving a basic income, but there is no other support for those who fall through the cracks. Society is full of risk, although more tribal forms of living work well for some.

The New Normal World, the most positive, is based on ground-up, asset-based, people-powered care. Robert Rae, of Iriss, says the results were not pre-determined and the scenarios came about as the result of rigorous group processes thinking through the consequences of a range of policies. This kind of future thinking made participants question their assumptions about some big questions, such as: what is radicalism in social care in the 21st century? "That's the big question, and it is one that social workers have to answer for themselves," Mr Rae says.

While we are likely to end up with a mixture of elements of all the scenarios, they are useful for those thinking about policy and leadership for the future. They are already being enthusiastically taken up. Iriss is being asked to present the project to all staff of the Scottish Social Services Council, four local authorities in Scotland have been in touch and there has even been interest from Northern Ireland.

Those looking for a spot of social work meets the Hunger Games can find the scenarios and much more at