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Department of Health strategic statement for social work with adults in England 2016-2020

Our vision for adult social work is for a highly skilled, capable and confident profession, which is clear about its role in working with people to empower, protect and promote their wellbeing and inclusion and its contribution to supporting people across the wider health and care system.

Every day, social workers deal with complex and challenging situations. They play a unique role in supporting people, often at the most difficult times in their lives. To do this successfully, they require a distinctive set of skills, knowledge and values to enable social workers to work with children, families, adults and their communities and with professionals across a range of sectors, including in health, housing and the legal system. To do their job well requires compassion, empathy, analytical thinking and an understanding of the positive impact they can have in people’s lives. They work with complexity, uncertainty, risk and conflict within a complex legal framework. They are required to use sound professional judgement in balancing needs, risks and resources to achieve the right outcome.

Done well, social work can improve people’s opportunities and quality of life, enabling them to lead the lives they want, as best they can.

Social work has a vital role to play in realising our commitment to deliver seven day services and an integrated health and care system, using strengths and outcome focussed approaches to support people’s independence and wellbeing, seeing the whole person, not just a list of conditions. Social workers are central to that ambition, working in multi-disciplinary teams, enabling and working alongside people to develop the right solutions to help people stay well, live independently and, where they do require hospital treatment, helping ensure people are discharged and receive on-going care and support appropriate to their needs.