Substance misuse training needs to be stepped up in Scotland

Social care workers in Scotland have for decades received little training on working with people who misuse drugs and alcohol, a report has found.

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Social care workers in Scotland have for decades received little training on working with people who misuse drugs and alcohol, a report has found.

Students and agency social workers in particular suffer from a lack of teaching and informed supervision on substance misuse, according to a research review commissioned by the Association of Directors of Social Work and the Scottish government.

This is despite social workers, whatever their specialist area of practice, being “ideally placed” to offer a holistic approach to undertanding the relationship between the person’s substance use and their family, home and community.

The report also found some employers did not consider working with substance misuse to be their focus, so social workers were given too little time to engage with the issues. There was often a lack of departmental policy to support this work.

“For decades, social work and social care staff have received very little training or support to develop their skills, knowledge and values in relation to substance misuse,” the report said.

“This suggests that, if social workers are to engage fully with those with substance use problems, then changes are needed at individual, team and structural levels.”

The report highlighted key actions social care workers, supervisors and mangers can take to address the skills shortfall. They include:

● Improve your communication skills training.

● Discuss substance misuse within your team, to reinforce the message that this is part of the social work role.

● Invite in speakers from local drug and alcohol agencies as part of continuing professional development.

● Support students by offering guidance, mentoring or work placements related to substance misuse.

It also recommended making training on substance misuse a mandatory part of social work education in Scotland.

Read Social Work Services and Recovery from Substance Misuse: A Review of the Evidence

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Attend our conference, Whole family support for drug and alcohol misusing parents: Working together to promote recovery and positive parenting, on Thursday 15 September 2011, central London

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