Mental health tsar Louis Appleby has told Community Care
that the publication this week of the Mental Health Bill would end
the role of approved social worker and replace it with approved
mental health professional. Such professionals will come from a
variety of backgrounds.
Most in social care will be relieved that the bill is finally
published. It will, if passed, form the backbone of the
government’s commitment to supporting and treating people with
mental illness and protecting the public.
However, the new approach risks ignoring a vast pool of experience.
Approved social workers know how to deal with mental health
problems. ASWs also have a career background in social work and
work with other social care professionals, including services such
as housing. Also, an ASW must agree with two doctors before a
patient can be sectioned – ensuring these decisions incorporate
social as well as medical factors.
If the newly created approved mental health professionals are drawn
largely from nurses and psychologists, who have spent their working
lives within the NHS or other medical settings, such pragmatic
knowledge and understanding of social issues could be lost and
replaced by an approach focused on purely medical needs.
Yet approved social workers will be able to convert to the role
with some additional training. Whether ASWs can change will depend
on the whether the government can give them an incentive to do so.