Substance misuse training should be mandatory for social workers

The government’s 10-year drug strategy does not give social workers the skills to work effectively with families affected by substance misuse, a leading social work academic has said.

Sarah Galvani, associate professor at the University of Warwick, called for drug and alcohol training to be a mandatory part of all social work degree courses, along with post-qualifying training tailored to practice areas.

Drug strategy - p11 6 MarchThe strategy, launched last week, promised to place a greater priority on children and families affected by substance misuse, including through increased support for kinship carers taking responsibility for the children of substance misusing relatives (see Key points).

However, Galvani criticised the strategy for placing responsibility on “local areas” to ensure staff are appropriately skilled.

“The danger is that changes made at a local level will last only so long – usually while it is a politically hot topic,” she said.

Galvani urged the government to recognise the gaps in substance misuse training and to work with social work organisations to “plug” them, to prevent “poor and inconsistent practice” from continuing.

General Social Care Council chief executive Mike Wardle said: “Training for social workers to deal with substance abuse is very important. The GSCC does not prescribe the content of the social work degree but course providers are required to prepare students against the National Occupational Standards for social work.”

Related articles

Social work training needs to include substance misuse

More information

Drug strategy overview

Contact the author

Caroline Lovell

Sarah Galvani is researching the adequacy of substance misuse training for social workers and wants to hear from those qualifying in 2006 and 2007. Email

Come to Community Care conference on kinship carers in London, 12 March.

This article appeared in the 6 March issue under the headline “Drug strategy ‘fails to plug gap’ in social work training”


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