My departure to the University of York in September is leading to the closure of social work education and research at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP).
Shortly after I handed in my notice a decision was made not to replace me and to close the MSc Mental Health Social Work with Children & Adults programme to new entrants. This will bring to an end over 30 years of social work education and research at the IoP.
Psychiatric social workers were first trained at the Maudsley Hospital in the early twentieth century. Trained in psychodynamic therapy, they worked therapeutically alongside psychiatrists to support the recovery of people with mental health problems on their discharge from hospital.
Alan Rushton revived social work training at the Maudsley in the late 1970s and developed a postgraduate social work programme at the IoP which grew into the MSc Mental Health Social Work with Children & Adults. He led the programme until 2006, during which time he trained numerous social workers in advanced practice and research.
The programme developed a unique model of advanced case consultation which fostered the development of advanced practitioners. Jack Nathan articulated the model in a 2002 paper in the Journal of Practice Teaching in Health and Social Work, which has been widely used since then. Jack updated the model in our 2010 book Reflective Practice in Mental Health.
A unique feature of our advanced practitioner model is the expectation that practitioners undertake original research. Over the past three decades numerous practitioners have completed research projects, at least half a dozen of which have been published in international peer reviewed social work journals. Many more have influenced policy and practice locally in the practitioners’ agencies.
In addition to enhancing the quality of social work practice, some other achievements of the programme team have included:
The development of the first e-learning courses at the IoP. Two research-based short courses have been taught via distance learning to social workers in the UK and overseas. Funded by a Skills for Care Innovation Grant, the evaluation of the pilots of these courses found that social workers can develop their knowledge of research methods and skills in critically appraising research and writing research proposals via e-learning.
Enhancement of our understanding about the meaningful involvement of service users and carers in social work education. Our literature review and qualitative study, both currently in press with the British Journal of Social Work, have been cited by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and have laid the foundation for future evaluations. (Click here and here for SCIE reports).
From 2007 to 2011 we hosted an annual national continuing development conference for social workers, in partnership with Making Research Count. These well-attended conferences featured prominent keynote speakers such as Professor Eileen Munro and Camila Batmanghelidjh. These conferences provided a unique forum which engaged practitioners in discussing new research and current social work issues.
For the last 12 years we have hosted a workshop which has explored social work issues in some depth. For example, our 12th Maudsley Workshop this spring explored the role of social media in the continuing professional development of social workers. Previous workshops have explored topics such as the assessment of advanced practice (which featured Moira Gibb, Chair of the Social Work Reform Board) and they have been influential in the development of the Advanced Social Work Practice network which now has over 1300 members from across the world.
The excellent social work team – Jack Nathan, Caroline Grimbly, Trevor Welland and Julie Smith – will continue to support the existing MSc students through the second year of the programme until autumn 2013.
I will be taking my research projects with me to York. The Connecting People Study and the feasibility study exploring Personalised Care In Mental Health will continue as before, but will be led from York. My role in other studies such as the Community Health Networks study will also continue as before. I will be developing a mental health social work research group at the University of York, so there will be a growth in research activity in this field, albeit led by a different university.
Since Peter Huxley left in 2006 and Alan Rushton retired in 2007 I have been the only social work Principal Investigator of research studies at the IoP. So, my departure will mean the end of social work research at the IoP for the foreseeable future.
I am very sad to see the closure of the MSc Mental Health Social Work with Children & Adults and the end of social work research at the IoP, particularly as these developments have been triggered by my move to York.
Thank you to everyone who has made my time at the IoP over the last ten years such an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. I hope to keep in touch with you via this blog or other means.
Over the years many people have been involved with social work education or research at the IoP – whether as a practitioner, student, service user, carer, research participant, collaborator, researcher, lecturer or stakeholder. The contribution of the IoP social work team can easily be forgotten once the MSc programme finishes in 2013. Therefore, I would like to gather and share the thoughts and feelings of those who have graduated from the MSc programme, attended our conferences or workshops, engaged with our research or have been involved with us in any capacity over the last 30 years or so. I would be most grateful if you could add a short comment at the end of this blog post (anonymously if you wish). These will be available for anyone to read as soon as they are posted, but will be collected together in one document for a special celebration event in 2013 to mark the closure of the MSc programme. This document will then be made available to download from this blog and kept for posterity. Thank you.