British Association of Social Workers members have urged employers and educators to provide more support in working with substance misusing clients.
During a meeting of BASW’s special interest group on alcohol and drugs, frontline staff requested more training as well as more knowledgeable supervision when working with alcohol and drug misusers.
Specialist modules on substance misuse should be taught on both qualifying and post-qualifying training programmes, in order to meet the demands of a growing prevalence in social workers’ caseloads, practitioners said. Currently, substance misuse is not a mandatory part of social work degree.
Not a good reputation
“Social work has not had a good reputation in terms of working with people with substance problems,” Dr Sarah Galvani, associate professor at the University of Warwick, commented. “While drug and alcohol problems are increasingly recognised as stemming from, and leading to, social harms, we seem to have ignored a whole group of professionals who are on the frontline and picking up the pieces.”
Galvani has repeatedly raised the issue of the lack of training in substance misuse for social workers, most recently following the launch of the government’s 10-year drugs strategy in February, which said local areas should ensure staff are appropriately skilled.
“It is about time employers, policy makers and social work academics took their own advice and started working together both for the sake of their staff but also for the sake of the people at risk of harm through substance problems.”