Social work professional standards will be revised to increase practitioners’ knowledge and skills when working with people with mental health needs.
The pledge came today as part of a package of measure on tackling mental health issues announced by prime minister Theresa May, which includes the publication of a white paper heralding the replacement of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) before the end of the year.
There was no detail offered today on how professional standards would be revised to take greater account of mental health. The knowledge and skills statement (KSS) for child and family social workers has one standard relating to understanding the impact of mental ill health in adults on their children, but doesn’t cover children’s mental health. The KSS for adult social workers makes a number of brief references to mental health, including in relation to knowledge of the MHA and the need to understand the impact of mental ill-health as part of assessments.
Delay in responding to MHA review
It is over six months since the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 1983, commissioned personally by May, reported, setting out a blueprint for replacing the MHA. At the time, in December 2018, the government accepted two of the report’s 154 recommendations:
- to replace the nearest relative role, in which a patient is allocated a relative to be involved in decisions about their care, with that of a nominated person that they would choose;
- to allow people to make statutory advance choice documents setting out their preferences for inpatient treatment, which clinicians must honour unless there are compelling reasons not to.
It said it would give a full response to the review ‘in the New Year’. Today’s announcement gives no more detail on the government’s response, saying that it would produce a white paper – a policy document setting out plans to legislate on an issue – before the end of this year.
Chair of the review Sir Simon Wessely welcomed today’s announcement but stressed that the review’s recommendations now needed to be acted upon.
More support in schools
Other announcements made today include:
- training for all new teachers on how to spot the signs of mental health issues, backed up by updated statutory guidance to make clear schools’ responsibilities to protect children’s mental wellbeing;
- support for school mental health leads so they can help children struggling with self-harm and risk of suicide;
- extra funding to support local authorities to strengthen and deliver local suicide prevention plans so that they better meet the needs of the people they serve.
May, who will leave Downing Street next month, said the emphasis of her plans was on prevention.
“It’s time to rethink how we tackle this issue, which is why I believe the next great revolution in mental health should be in prevention,” she said” “The measures we’ve launched today will make sure at every stage of life, for people of all backgrounds, preventing mental illness gets the urgent attention it deserves.”