The role of social workers in mental health services is “greatly misunderstood” by the public, according to research published by fast-track social work training scheme Think Ahead.
A survey of over 1000 British adults found only a third (33%) knew social workers were involved in deciding whether someone should be detained under the Mental Health Act. Social workers who are qualified as Approved Mental Health Professionals lead on this work.
Respondents were also asked what types of support social workers are able to offer people with mental health problems. “Assessing people’s practical needs” came top with 65%.
This was followed by “talking about broader concerns and worries” (52%) and “ensuring authorities comply with mental health legislation” (51%). Less than half of the survey respondents (48%) knew social workers can also provide talking therapies, help to find accommodation (47%) or get funding for people in financial difficulty as part of their role (43%).
The findings also suggested that social workers are being confused with home care workers, who provide domestic support for daily tasks. More than a quarter of people surveyed thought social workers provided either personal care, childcare or did jobs like cooking and cleaning.
Lyn Romeo, the chief social worker for adults, said: “Empowering individuals, families and communities to use their strengths to bring about positive change is a key and inspiring part of social work. As this report demonstrates, there is still more to do to communicate the crucial role of social workers, which is why I will continue to champion the work they do.”
The research was carried out by ComRes for Think Ahead to mark World Social Work Day.