A partnership approach between the Crown Office & the University of Edinburgh Social Work practice learning programme.

In the middle of adversity lies opportunity, is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist.   In light of the recent and current world wide pandemic it can be so easy to get lost in the fog and not see the potential of developing partnerships and new endeavours. Which for those of us involved in ensuring we enhance our student learning experiences is not an option.

Prior to 2020, social work practice learning opportunities had been on the national agenda for most organisations involved in Social Work education across Scotland, due to both the availability and quality of placements.  The pandemic has amplified the challenges of finding suitable, high quality and relevant placements for students preparing to enter professional practice.

The role of a social worker (student or qualified social worker) is diverse and wide. However the central parts focus on the use of skills, informed by theory/knowledge and underpinned by sounds values.   There are a number of organisations and placement agencies who offer our students great opportunities to develop in these areas either with children or with adults, and there are a few that will develop that generic approach of both working alongside adults and children.

In September 2021, I approached the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in Scotland about the possibility of students undertaking placements with them, as I was aware that as well as having established processes for progressing the prosecution of individuals, they provided a Victim Information Advice (VIA) service to victims/survivors of crime.  This service offers help to child and and victims of crime in cases of domestic abuse, hate crime, sexual crime or where it is likely that a trial will involve a jury.  The main purpose of my contact with them was to explore a mutually beneficial project of VIA hosting social work student placements as part of our BSc Hons and Master of social work programmes.

Our students have a great deal to offer the recipients of the VIA service, as well as enhancing the service provided by existing staff members, given students up to date knowledge and understanding of trauma informed practice. Students bring with them the opportunity to transfer their teaching within the University of Edinburgh in a number of ways:

  • knowledge and understanding of the impact of trauma
  • the ability to engage with a range of people, some of who will be in a crisis
  • an understanding of the value of providing people with individual support, advice and guidance especially a part of a larger organisation and a society which at times can marginalise them.
  • And so much more………..

Our students will gain some invaluable knowledge in relation to criminal justice process processes, including:

  • Developing a working knowledge about the criminal justice systems in Scotland
  • Assessing where a victim appears to be vulnerable for any reason
  • Intervening, where the prosecutor believes the victim will benefit from VIA involvement
  • Providing those who access the service with up-to-date information on key developments in the case that affects them – such as, dates of hearings, decisions about bail, verdicts and sentences – or why no proceedings are being taken
  • Supporting and signposting those who access VIA to get in touch with organisations that can offer practical and emotional support
  • Negotiating and accessing any additional supports for a victim of crime for example, if they have to give evidence in court.
  • Supporting the organisation of a visit to court so that victims of crimes know what to expect if the case goes to trial and they are to give evidence
  • Maintain contact with the victims and witnesses to ensure they remain engaged in the prosecution and feel supported

“This is an excellent opportunity for COPFS and the University of Edinburgh to work together to provide a service offered to victims and witnesses as well as contributing to the development of our future social workers. Further, it will provide COPFS with valuable insight into the most up to date research into trauma informed practice and domestic abuse and demonstrate partnership approach which will inform the practice of all those involved both now and in the future” Deputy Crown Agent Operational Support (COPFS).


This pilot project will run from Feb 2022 and will operate from both Glasgow and Edinburgh courts, with an evaluation taking place in June.  Initially ten students will be offered this opportunity with a planned increase across other geographical areas across the Scottish courts system in November 2022 and beyond.

The benefits to COPFS and to our social work students are mutual and aimed at reflecting “Social work as a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.  Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge’s, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing”(International Federation of Social, International Association of Schools of Social, & International Council on Social, 2012).  In summary I believe this is a win win for both the Crown Office and for social work as a profession.

Therefore in a situation which of course is difficult and further heightened with a pandemic, this pilot provides an opportunity which will lead to a great deal of learning and development for all those involved.

Avril McIvor

Director of Practice Learning

Lecturer in Social Work

School of Social & Political Science

Mob 07525183236



Recent publication

McIvor, A.  2022. Social Work: A profession that chose me.  In Cree V (Ed) Becoming a Social Worker a Social Worker London: Routledge. Chapter 2.







Photos taken by Avril McIvor

International Federation of Social, W., International Association of Schools of Social, W., & International Council on Social, W. (2012). The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development: Commitment to Action. Journal of social work education, 48(4), 837-843.

World Social Work Day – A truly international celebration with shared hope for change and for the future

 “The meeting was very enlightening, in my opinion it deserves to be televised.” Attendee #wswd2021 

This year’s World Social Work Day was celebrated on 16 March 2021 with a shared theme of Ubuntu: I am Because We Are”, Strengthening Social Solidarities & Global Connectedness.  

A hugely successful collaboration between the SPS Social Work department (led by George Palattiyil), Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in India and Johannesburg University in South Africa saw academics and students join together in a Zoom session to discuss the theme and identify opportunities for change.  

The keynote was delivered by Paul Ladd, Director of United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. He emphasized the importance of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals: Transforming our World and the associated challenges in delivery.  

The two-hour event included presentations from our very own John Devaney, PhD (Centenary Professor and Head of Social Work at SPS), Professor Adrian van Breda, Head of the Department of Social Work and Community Development, UK and Johannesburg University and Dr. Joseph M.K, Head of the Department of Social Work, Rajagiri College of Social Sciences.  

An engaging panel discussion explored “Realizing Ubuntu in everyday practice” and was followed by an enlightening student-led presentation of videos highlighting approaches, methods and subjects covered by their respective universities. The session closed with opportunities for questions and discussion from the attendees.  

The event, which had reached capacity registrations 2 days prior, was found to be “enlightening”, “informative” and “inspirational” by those attending.  


Don’t just take our word for it… 

The following is a selection of feedback from attendees of the session who couldn’t have been more effusive in their praise.  

  • Excellent event. Really well organized and run and fabulous content. For future – suggest students could organize themed panel discussions to develop critical perspectives on a particular theme(s). Students themselves could be on the panels possibly with staff, practitioners and service users. Well done and congratulations! 
  • It was really good to know social work experience from other universities  
  • It was a good programme and (I) benefited professionally. Congratulations to the organizers. 
  • It would be amazing to hear more about the way in which the students of the different universities tackle the issues of their societies and what approaches they learn 
  • It was a wonderful collaboration. Good job. 
  • Hope this will be made an annual event. 
  • Really insightful presentation and really good to see the university campuses in India and South Africa 
  • It was a very great experience, I would love it to be more open next time, to ensure that even students from other countries can be able to ask questions. 
  • This webinar should be a yearly program, during world social work day celebration 
  • I believe this was a very noble idea and I would suggest that more universities should also be brought on board. I am a student from Kenya pursuing a Masters of Social Work. This partnership should also be stretched to Kenya and other parts of the world. 
  • Thank you to all involved who collaborated to make this webinar possible. Interesting insights and food for thought. Perhaps more dialogue around how we ensure Ubuntu does not become just another fashionable idea or concept discussed but rather an everyday lived experience of social workers and those we serve. 


Congratulations to all involved – inspirational to us all.  


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