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Understanding People Affected by Brain Injury

Practice Guidance for Social Workers and Social Care Teams

The purpose of this Guide

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is a condition that may be seen by social workers who work in adult and children’s assessment teams, but not always as a presenting problem. This guide aims to increase awareness of ABI among social workers and provide guidance about what an ABI is and how social work intervention can benefit these individuals. The guidance links to the appropriate level of knowledge and skills as identified in the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) and the Knowledge and Skills Statement for adults and child and family social work.

Definition of Acquired Brain Injury

The brain directs every part of our thinking, movement, behaviour, communication, vision, hearing and more. Brain injuries can be caused by a trauma – such as a blow to the head, a fall, sports injury, assault or car accident and can also be acquired due to an infection such as encephalitis. Other causes of brain injury include cardiac arrest which deprives the brain of oxygen and brain haemorrhages/aneurysms. The impact of brain injury is complex – one or more areas of the brain may be affected. Most head injuries are minor but sometimes they can cause severe problems.

Brain injury can lead to long-term problems. Whilst many individuals do recover some or all of their abilities or use compensatory strategies to support their management, longer term and often invisible difficulties can remain. The impact of childhood brain injury may not always be apparent until adulthood, when the affected individual needs to use increasingly complicated skills and social abilities.