Degree ‘fails to equip students with mental health skills’

Most social workers and students think the social work degree fails to equip them to support people with mental health problems, research by the General Social Care Council has shown.

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Most social workers and students think the social work degree fails to equip them to support people with mental health problems, research by the General Social Care Council has shown.

A snapshot poll found four out of five respondents (84%) said they did not believe the social work degree adequately addressed mental health awareness.

Writing on the GSCC’s website, Melanie Henwood, an independent health and social care consultant and former vice-chair of the regulator, said the results made a case for changing the degree.

She wrote: “It is unreasonable to expect that a generic degree would provide specialist skills and knowledge in all areas of practise, but some awareness and understanding of the issues, as well as a level of mental health literacy, should surely be a requirement.”

The GSCC’s report on social work education in England in 2009-10 found that mental health statutory placements were often insufficient for students’ learning needs.

It also identified a decline in recruitment to the mental health post-qualifying specialism, from 22% of enrolments in 2008-9 to 16% in 2009-10.

The Social Work Reform Board is working on strengthening the curriculum framework in England, and is expected to publish a draft framework for consultation later this year.

Henwood said: “The next phase of work from the reform board on strengthening the curriculum framework will be awaited with interest, not least to see how it might help in addressing these vital issues around theory and practice, and core training requirements in respect of mental health.”

A report on the training and development needs of the social care workforce supporting people with mental health needs is also expected from Skills for Care and Skills for Health later in the year.

The GSCC’s poll received 450 responses, the majority of which were from social workers and students. The poll was also open to the public via the GSCC’s website.

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