Sixty Second Interview with Claire Barcham and Hazelanne Lewis

Sixty Second Interview with Claire Barcham and Hazelanne Lewis

The first national body for Approved Social Workers was set up in July. The national ASW Steering Committee will have representatives from all of the Care Services Improvement Partnership Regional Development Centres in England and representation from Wales. Maria Ahmed talks to Claire Barcham, ASW Leads Network National Coordinator, and Hazelanne Lewis, Communication Lead (National Network),about the committee’s plans.

What are the main issues that the ASW leads committee will focus on? How will it take action?

The main issue for ASW leads is ensuring that national voice of ASW’s is heard in the debate about the proposed amendments to the Mental Health Act. We are also concerned about inadequacies in the current act that make ASW work so stressful to users, carers and ASWs. For example, ASWs sometimes find themselves waiting for up to six-eight weeks for police assistance despite.

The other priority is ensuring that ASWs voices are heard by the General Social Care Council while it develops the new mental health framework.

What are your main concerns about the threat to the role of the approved social worker, as a result of the amendments to the 1983 Mental Health Act?

The suggestion that the ASW role should be widened to include other professionals has raised concerns about how this would affect the purpose of the role – to act an independent ‘balance’ to the medical power of the doctors and the opinion of the multidisciplinary team, who recommend admission. The social work value base emphasises the need to balance the need to empower the service user with the duty to provide protection and control when it is necessary. Leads are concerned that the independence of the role could be compromised as other professionals may find it harder to maintain a different view from that of the doctors.

Do you have any alternatives to the proposed amendments?

Ensuring that police and ambulance services provide timely assistance to the ASW/Approved Mental Health Worker when requested. Also that health trust must locate a bed when an assessment identifies that admission is the only option. Currently, some ASW’s can wait for over 6 hours with a distressed user and carer, until a bed is identified. This puts ASW’s and carers at risk.

How can Approved Social Work Standards be improved and maintained?

A priority is to develop regional networks to support ASW practice. The National Institute for Mental Health Services in England and the Social Care Institute for Excellence have both offered positive support and encouragement on the development of networks. Learning from national experts and sharing good practice in this way helps to improve standards.


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