First ever substance misuse framework for social workers launches

The national substance misuse guidance sets out what social workers at every stage of their career should know

substance abuse
Simon Webster/REX

Newly qualified social workers should be able to identify substance misuse, understand why people might misuse substances, recognise the impact on others such as children or other dependents and refer people on to other services, according to new guidance.

The national framework, funded by Public Health England,  lays out for the first time the skills social workers in all areas of practice need when working with someone with alcohol and drug problems.

Drawn up by Manchester Metropolitan University Professor Sarah Galvani, in consultation with organisations such as the British Association of Social Workers and The College of Social Work, the guidance maps the skills needed against the professional capabilities framework (PCF).

Lead author Galvani said although social workers in both adult and children’s services regularly worked with people with substance problems, most were not adequately equipped to carry out this role.

“[Social workers] need clarity about what their role and remit is and how their supervisors and managers can support them,” she said.

The guidance identifies three key roles and related professional capabilities for social workers and managers: to engage with substance misuse as part of their role, to motivate people to change their behaviours and to support people to maintain those changes.

They should also be able to assess an individual sensitively, work in partnership with them and their family to develop a maintenance and relapse prevention plan, as well as recognising and challenging their own and others’ stereotype around substance misuse.

Chief executive of The College of Social Work, Annie Hudson said: “Substance use is one of the areas that cuts across all areas of social work practice and is often part of the complex needs of the individuals and families that social workers support.

“This document will reinforce the College’s work to ensure social work education and training provides social workers with the tools to do their job well.”

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10 Responses to First ever substance misuse framework for social workers launches

  1. Sarah March 24, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    I want to commend the author of this article for “watching her language.” Often when discussing substance use and misuse, there term “abuse” is used to. This term is a pejorative term that denotes willful misuse of substances.

    See article below for more complete explanation: http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2013/12/language-substance-abuse-addiction

  2. louise March 24, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    About time although all the training in the world won’t wash away some of the deep seated misguided thinking that I have seen displayed in ‘qualified’ professionals. I hope that it can stop the undeniable snatching of babies for adoption and work to keep families together. The present system is deeply flawed and needs an overhaul. Not enough support is given to drug using families and the bar is set ridiculously high for the disadvantaged. Social workers have their own (usually personal) agenda that loosely follows the legislation which means they get away with it. I hope this framework makes a difference.

    • lucy March 25, 2015 at 5:09 am #

      snatching children due to a personal agenda?!? wow. that’s a pretty out of control statement.

    • lynn March 30, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

      I concur to a degree with Louise’ comments. Let’s not forget that not all drug users make bad parents!

      However I work in the field of substance misuse and see on a daily basis the damage illicit substances do to families. As adults we have decisions and choices as to how we live our lives but sadly children reap the consequences of these decisions.

      I know there is an immense amount of support out there to help and support families to make changes in their lives without the ‘grim reaper’ approach often found in the child protection arena but sadly very few of these individuals manage to make the necessary changes.

      There are some amazing social workers in the field of children’s services and I have found that they all work towards the best interests of the child. Perhaps some more heavy handed than others…..

    • TW March 31, 2015 at 10:54 am #

      This statement is far from accurate and is not helpful for those SW who do very difficult jobs under very difficult circumstances. I am an adult SW but am aware that family SW do their jobs within a structured framework of law. To state that children are snatched displays a clear lack of understanding of the process and obviously conveys the author’s agenda.

  3. Simon Cobb March 25, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    I have been hoping for this for some time. I am a senior social worker practicing in a family service concerned with addiction. I have been guest speaker at UCS for their social work programme for two years now and I hope the work I have been doing has helped trainee social workers in their career.

  4. Terry Sullivan March 25, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    HMoG! The penny’s finally dropped! It’s basic assessment of human need, yet consistently ignored by academia & most employers for years & years! Time to get out of your Ivory towers & see what’s happening in the real world?

  5. Anne Marie Lord March 25, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    I have been working in substance misuse services as a social worker for 4 years and feel that it has enhanced my skills so that I can utilise these in my career in other areas of work. This is a good idea as it is still area that lacks understanding and also the understanding of services provided to clients in drug and alcohol services. If Social Workers were given skills in this area they could actively promote engagement with substance misuse services as well as provide brief interventions and information around substance use and issues for the client in their interventions.

  6. Pat reihill March 25, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    Congratulations to Sarah and her team for pulling together this excellent and much needed resource.

  7. Ian March 25, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    We produced a Social Worker guide to Substance misuse about four years ago!

    http://www.substance.org.uk/Products/39-social-work-drugs-alcohol-a-practical-guide.aspx