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BASW welcomes NHS mental health workforce plan but seeks full inclusion of social workers

BASW is calling for social workers to be included in a new mental health workforce plan published today by Health Education England.

Stepping Forward to 2020/21: the mental health workforce plan for England sets out a road map to deliver a transformation in mental health workforce, primarily by adding 21,000 staff, a key detail which was announced by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The plan will benefit an extra one million people who need support from mental health services by 2020-21, however BASW strongly believes this workforce plan must include social workers for it to be fully credible, and will be working with our colleagues to rectify this. 

“Social workers play an integral role as approved mental health professionals, best interest assessors and as skilled specialist workers in statutory, independent, voluntary and integrated settings,” says Maris Stratulis, BASW Manager, England.

“We certainly hope that any refresh of this document will include and recognise the value of social workers, many of whom are also employed by health organisations in England and across the U.K.”

Today’s announcement follows The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health report commissioned by NHS England in February 2016, which stated public attitudes towards mental health are improving and that there is a growing cross-party, cross-community consensus for a shift towards prevention and to transform NHS care.

It outlines out the start of a ten-year journey for that transformation, to which Stepping Forward to 2020/21 aims to fill in the details regarding workforce.

However, while it sets out funding and strategies for the wider mental health workforce including nurses, occupational therapists and psychiatrists, there is no mention of any extra funding for social workers specifically. 

“Integration must not be 'tokenistic', it is about organisational culture shift owned and delivered by leaders and professionals, underpinned by respect and value for the unique and expert contribution of each professional – including social workers,” says Stratulis.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, said: “The success of The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health depends heavily on the capacity and quality of the workforce. The support of a great nurse, doctor, psychologist or social worker can make all the difference to people’s lives."