Social work degrees should include compulsory training on substance misuse, drug charities have warned.
A report by the charity Adfam, revealed widespread fears that social workers are not given adequate training or effective managerial supervision on substance misuse and its impact on children and parenting.
With the Munro review of child protection placing greater emphasis on the professional judgement of frontline staff and Working Together safeguarding guidance being “dramatically trimmed down” by government, there is a growing need to support professionals, the report warned.
“Trusting their judgement should not equate to leaving them unsupported and isolated,” the report said.
Vivienne Evans, chief executive of Adfam, said she understood the caseload pressures faced by social workers and did not expect them to “become overnight experts on addiction.”
But she stressed that gaps in support for frontline staff needed to be addressed urgently, as substance misuse features prominently in the caseloads of many social workers.
Dr Sarah Galvani, chair of the British Association of Social Workers’ special interest group on alcohol and other drugs, backed the call for compulsory substance misuse training for social workers.
Reforms of social work education over the last 10 years had failed to “identify new subject areas” for mandatory training, she said.
“The experience from the DipSW shows that guidance alone doesn’t work. It needs strong leadership and creativity within social work education to introduce completely new subjects and find the resources and time on the curriculum to deliver it,” said Galvani.
“There are a number of examples of good practice but it is patchy and we know a third of social workers still leave qualifying education without any substance use education.”
Daisy Bogg, a substance misuse social worker and co-chair of the Social Perspectives Network, agreed that social workers should receive specialist substance misuse training during as part of degree programmes.
“Too often social workers are worried about handling it – they bounce it out to the drug teams. The only way that we’re going to address that is give social workers the skills and knowledge on drug and alcohol issues right at the beginning.”
Anne Mercer, professional advisor for The College of Social Work, said the college did not support calls for mandatory substance misuse training.
“Social work education covers a very wide and complex amount of learning and tuition and education establishments must be able to manage how this is provided,” said Mercer.
Andy McNicoll is Community Care’s community editor