One of the aims of the Connecting People Study is to help articulate aspects of mental health social work practice which have been largely undefined.
For too long social workers in mental health settings have found it difficult to articulate the unique contribution they make beyond their statutory functions. The Social Perspectives Network, amongst others, have helped to make the case for social work, but there remains a lack of high quality research evidence on the effectiveness of mental health social work.
The Connecting People Study provides an intervention framework which is amenable to rigorous evaluation. It resonates with mental health social workers and early feedback from practitioners suggests that it helps to define their role in connecting people with others to assist their recovery.
Griff Jones, Social Care Lead and Approved Mental Health Professional in Derby City Council, chose to participate in the pilot study to help social workers articulate and evidence their role in mental health teams. He told me:
In choosing to participate in the study, I felt that it dovetailed very well with the move towards self directed support and would help social care colleagues to be able to use a model which would guide and inform their practice. I was particularly attracted to the partnership approach to work with clients as this also linked into the recovery model in mental health.
I feel that the intervention helps to enable social workers to identify what they are able to offer in the field of mental health, particularly in relation to developing and enhancing individuals circles of support and looking to link in with community resources.
The staff who attended the training have responded very favourably to the intervention, in particular as it has helped them to reflect on what their role is as social care staff working in Mental Health Services.
At present within Derby there is a review of what social workers do in mental health services as the local authority seeks to ensure that our practice is more reflective of their objectives rather than being, in the main, just meeting Trust objectives. The intervention will hopefully be used to help inform this review so that any future service model is based on core social work values.
We are hopeful that the study will help social workers to articulate their role and provide evidence about its outcomes so that reviews and service reconfigurations can be more evidence-based than they appear to be at present.