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Building capacity and bridging the gaps: Strand 1: Social Care Practice with Older People, People with Learning Disabilities, and Physically Diisabled People who use Alcohol and Other Drugs

This report conveys the findings of one part of a three strand project which set out to examine, in some detail, the current state of training to work with alcohol and other drug problems in social work and social care. The strand of work reported here focused particularly on the experiences of practitioners in three specialist areas of adult social care when working with these issues in order to establish their specific training needs. The other two strands of work focused on current provision for training in issues related to alcohol or other drugs (AOD) in a) social work education (Galvani and Allnock, 2013) and b) CPD training provided by local authority workforce development departments (Allnock and Hutchinson, 2013).

The rationale for this three strand project resulted from the findings of a national survey of social work and social care practitioners in England which was undertaken by the same research team in 2010 (Galvani, Dance and Hutchinson, 2011a). This survey had focussed on the experiences of practitioners in all areas of children’s and adults’ services when working with people who use, and have problems with, alcohol and other drugs (AOD). The survey was the first of its kind in the UK and explored the practice experiences of respondents as well as their training experiences and current training needs (Galvani et al. 2011a). The survey data were supplemented by focus groups with a range of adults’ and children’s social care practitioners and interviews with key informants.

One of the major findings of this original survey, alongside the fact that the availability of training in AOD was found to be limited in quantity and focus, was that practitioners in Adults’ Services (AS) reported far less training in AOD than was true for most practitioners in Children’s Services (CS). Adults’ Services practitioners were also less likely to encounter, and ask about, AOD use than their CS counterparts. Thus it appeared that while for CS practitioners there were clear links between AOD use and safeguarding issues, the AS practitioners had not yet reached this same conclusion. What the survey suggested was that in order to support practitioners appropriately, AOD education had to consider the practice context and the particular needs of those practitioners and their service user group.