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Building capacity and bridging the gaps: Strand 3: Alcohol and other drugs in social care employment-based learning and development

Amongst the key findings it was revealed that almost one third (32%) of Local Authority (LA) employed social workers and social care practitioners had not received any in-house (employer-based) training on AOD use and a further 51% had received two days or less. Just 6% had received more than three days’ in-house training on AOD use in the course of their career in the sector, which in some cases spanned several decades (Galvani et al., 2011).

As a result, the researchers felt it was important to determine whether the picture painted by the practitioners in relation to their employer-based AOD education and training was accurate, and whether a more solid evidence base could be gleaned from triangulating the data through additional evidence from local authority workforce development and learning departments. This led directly to the aims and objectives of this project and complements two other strands which a) establish the particular challenges faced by practitioners working with older people, people with learning disabilities and physically disabled people (PI: Dr Cherilyn Dance), and b) determine the nature and extent of education on alcohol and other drugs on social work qualifying programmes in England (PI: Dr Sarah Galvani). Full details of the whole project and each strand can be found in the Summary report (Galvani et al. 2013).

Local Authority WLD departments play an important role in preparing social care professionals to effectively work with service users (SWTF, 2009). Employment-based training is critical for ensuring high quality of care across the social care sector, underpinning modifications to practice and capacity of the workforce to respond to changes in values, methods and roles (Tilley et al., 2000; Manthorpe et al., 2010; Clark, 2001). It is a key responsibility of employers to establish the conditions in which well-trained professionals can be effective and deliver high quality services by equipping them to carry out their daily role as well as support continuing professional development (CPD) (SWTF, 2009; Skills for Care, 2010).

A brief literature review revealed no other studies focussed on AOD in employer-based training, in spite of alcohol and other drugs regularly appearing on social care practitioners’ caseloads. Current knowledge about social work training and preparedness has come from studies focussed on qualifying social work education programmes (see Harrison, 1992; Waterson & Morris, 2005) or views and experiences of frontline or student social workers (See Bina et al., 2008; Galvani and Hughes, 2010; Loughran et al., 2010).