Alcohol and other Drug Use: The Roles and Capabilities of Social Workers
The aim of this document is to set out the roles and capabilities of social workers in relation to substance use. The document is not a guide to substances and their effects, nor does it provide detailed information on how to identify, assess and respond to substance use. What it does is set out the roles of social workers, the capabilities required for fulfilling those roles, and cross references these roles and capabilities to the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) (p. 20 and appendix A)
The document aims to clarify the broad expectations of all social workers when they work with someone who is experiencing problematic substance use. Substance use may be the main reason for their involvement with social care or it may be one of a number of overlapping experiences that led to their contact with social care services. This is a generic document; it should be used as a foundation on which different areas of specialist practice can build, adding further detail about particular knowledge requirements, tailored interventions or assessment tools.
The document is designed to fill a gap in the current guidance to social workers and those who manage, educate and train them. Curriculum guidance for social work educators already exists (Galvani 2009a-e; Galvani and Forrester 2009, Galvani 2012a) but this needs to be supported by clarity about what various social work roles should, or could, be in responding to substance use in a variety of social work contexts. This will help social workers and their managers to locate their interventions within a wider framework of roles and capabilities; a framework that is both supported and recommended by the key social work organisations and health and social care colleagues.
This document focuses on the roles and capabilities for all social workers who do not specialise in substance use; rather they specialise in another area of adults’ or children’s social work practice. While specialist substance use social workers will need to be able to fulfil these roles and capability requirements, they will also be expected to have a much more comprehensive knowledge of their topic area than the roles and capabilities outlined here. Their work will be led by their agency’s requirements and approach to substance use support and intervention and influenced by local and national government strategic priorities and workforce initiatives.