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The Role of the Social Worker in Adult Mental Health Services

Social workers have a crucial part to play in improving mental health services and mental health outcomes for citizens. They bring a distinctive social and rights-based perspective to their work. Their advanced relationship-based skills, and their focus on personalisation and recovery, can support people to make positive, self-directed change. Social workers are trained to work in partnership with people using services, their families and carers, to optimise involvement and collaborative solutions. Social workers also manage some of the most challenging and complex risks for individuals and society, and take decisions with and on behalf of people within complicated legal frameworks, balancing and protecting the rights of different parties. This includes, but is not limited to, their vital role as the core of the Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) workforce.

Yet the role and priorities of social workers in mental health in recent years have often not been well defined. Their status and authority within multidisciplinary settings has sometimes been undermined, and opportunities to realise professional potential have been underdeveloped. The question now is: How can social work play an even greater part in improving adult mental health services and achieve better service user, family and community outcomes?