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Westminster round table on mental health social work

BASW and SPN hosted a round table event in Westminster on December 10th 2014 with representatives from academics, service users and practitioners to discuss current issues in mental health social work. They were joined by MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Group on social work. The APPG is hoping to hold an inquiry into mental health social work after the General Election. The meeting recognised that the situation will vary across the countries of the UK, but information provided to the meeting provided evidence that there was some commonality of issues across the UK.

The meeting noted the acute pressures faced by many social workers in mental health settings. The lack of beds available when emergency admissions were required, the workload pressures from the need for best interest assessments and the high level of vacancies in some areas meant that staff were overloaded. This was compounded by the patchy picture of local authority support for seconded staff to NHS Trusts in some areas who did not have proper access to continuing professional development and lacked clear leadership promoting their social work identity.

At its best social work is creative and innovative, but it needs to be more assertive about what it can offer. Social work is the natural profession to play a lead role in the recovery movement, given its history of working in partnership with people who use services. New approaches like “Open Dialogue” needs to draw on social work skills in working with families with complex issues.

BASW and SPN believe Directors of Adult Social Care have a responsibility to mental health social workers and should:

a) ensure that the workload pressures are recognised

b) ensure regular access to professional development

c) ensure seconded staff have a clearly defined role and identity within an integrated context and access to professional leadership and support

d) press mental health trusts to ensure that social work should have professional representation at Board level

e) ensure the important place of social work in prevention and recovery in communities, including mental health settings is prioritised by Local Authority Health and Wellbeing Boards in England and the equivalent strategic bodies in other UK countries

f) ensure mental wellbeing is included in the commissioning strategies of Clinical Commissioning Groups in England

The round table event and meeting with MPs from the APPG is being written up and analysed to develop more specific recommendations. The report from the meeting will be made available at the joint SPN and BASW conference on March 17th 2015. For more details please follow the link here: