Skip to main content

Building capacity and bridging the gaps: Strand 2: Alcohol and other drugs in qualifying social work education

Final Report – June 2013

In 1989 Larry Harrison at the University of Hull conducted the first UK survey of teaching and learning on AOD use in qualifying social work education (Harrison 1992). This followed concerns about the “inadequate” level of education social workers received in working with people with alcohol problems in particular. As a result of this research, and with the backing of the Department of Health and an Inter-Ministerial Group on Alcohol Misuse, a working group was set up to develop guidance on integrating AOD use into what was then the ‘new’ Diploma in Social Work curriculum (CCETSW 1992).

At that time Harrison noted the increasing number of people with AOD problems on social workers’ caseloads although his research found inadequate levels of AOD use education in qualifying social work programmes. Since 1989 there has been a further major restructuring of social work education leading to the introduction of the under-graduate and post-graduate routes into social work in 2003. At the time of writing another restructure is underway and ‘new’ improved social work courses need to be in place in 2013.

Evidence from social work practitioners suggests that little has changed within qualifying social work programmes in relation to AOD education in the intervening years (Galvani et al. 2011). However, there has been no further research since 1989 to verify this. It is possible that practitioner recall of AOD teaching and learning has waned in the years since they undertook their social work qualification. This strand of the research set out to update Harrison’s work and to determine the nature and extent of AOD education on current qualifying social work programmes.