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End of social work at the Institute of Psychiatry

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.

28 thoughts on “End of social work at the Institute of Psychiatry

  1. ermintrude2 says:

    I’m sorry to hear about this on a personal level as I was hoping to do one of the courses there (was just trying to save up the money as of course, my employers are not going to pay in times like these!).
    It’s sad to lose a centre for mental health social work excellence. I’m grateful for the opportunities that have been developed for those in this field but worry enormously about the future of mental health social work generally and in that context, it is more than sad.

  2. Jonathan Parker says:

    Very sad news for social work, but very glad you are taking your research to York and this will not be lost!

  3. malcolm Golightley says:

    A sign of the times I guess but nevertheless disappointing. Their loss is York’s gain and as you are moving closer to us at Lincoln and Hull we look forward to having some useful discussions about mental health and research.

    1. Indeed. I look forward to identifying collaborative opportunities.

  4. Ian Cummins says:

    This is a great shame – I am not sure how this squares with developing multi-disciplinary approaches or “no decision about me without me”. A very important perspective is being marginalised and is in danger of being lost completely.

  5. really sorry to hear of this Martin but congratulations on your post at York.

    While members of staff leaving as at Southampton can trigger closures – they are likely to happen anyway and it is very positive that you and your research projects are continuing.

    The Open University is a coffee stop on the M1 on the way to York so do call in if you can!

  6. Thanks, Monica. I may take you up on that offer when the traffic is heavy on the M1! I’ll be up and down quite regularly so we’ll have to catch up at some point.

  7. Jane Lindsay says:

    I was very sorry to hear about this Martin. You and the IoP have done so much to promote Advanced Social Work. best wishes for your future career in York

  8. Mary Macdonald says:

    This is such a disappointment that a unique programme like tne MSc is ending and a great learning opportunity will be lost. it is indeed sad news for social work.

    However I do wish you well in your new post at York.

  9. Martin,
    This is shocking and sad news for social work, and I’m sure for you and your colleagues. It’s a short-sighted move by IoP and it is to be lamented. Your programme has made a major contribution to sustaining high quality post qualifying Sw training in London and the country. I was external examner for the programme for a few years (with Eileen Munro) and had some first hand insight into the range, depth and quality of student’s practice based work and research. I’m glad your career will continue at york Martin, so good luck wiht it. You and your colleagues have left an important legacy, just a more dispersed one now located with the many practitoiners who trained with you.

    All the best (if that’s the right way of signing off) Andrew

  10. Liz Kearton says:

    The closure of Mental Health social work research dept at the IoP squares with the disintegration (in every sense) of multidisciplinary working and the destruction of the biopsychosocial model. I am finding the speed and silence that accompanies these changes extremely disturbing as sociological understandings of mental distress are being abruptly erased from practice and research. I hope that we are able to reverse this in time and have grave concerns for those service users currently going through the bio psychiatric machine with no tempering triangulation.

  11. Esther Hack says:

    I graduated from the MSC programme at the IOP in I think 2001 (too long ago to remember). The course developed my work and led my career in a new direction. There are some things you remember in your career as being exciting and stimulating and moving you on, a sparkling time, and this is one of them. I believe my work with service users improved. As a result of the course and further years in the field I moved into a teaching role, and I hope have been able to support many social workers and trainee social workers in their development.

    I would like to thank Alan Rushton and Jack Nathan and the others who contributed to the course. I am very sorry to see it go, and I think it will be a loss to mental health social work and the IOP. The course reflected a recognition by the IOP that mental health problems have social as well as medical causes, and social approaches are an integral part of recovery. It is a shame on many levels to see the course go.

  12. Judy Foster says:

    Hi Martin – the closure of the department is not only a devastating loss to the advanced social work and mental health field but your annual conferences from 2007 were such a blast of fresh air! Cheap, cheerful and a chance to hear topical national speakers, new research findings and community initiatives -eg welcoming the Social Perspectives Network in 2007 and the work of St Michael’s Fellowship with parents in mental distress in 2010 – thank you.
    Best wishes for your move to York and to the team left behind. Judy Foster

  13. Hi Martin, so sorry to hear about this, a loss for us in South East London! I hope you will however continue to send us your research findings so we can continue to send out your social work information to our CPD locum social workers. All the best and thanks for all of you input to socialworkProcesses UK

  14. Don Brand says:

    Delighted you will be establishing a new base at York, Martin, and hope you will quickly make a link there with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation of which I’m a trustee, but the closure at IoP is not good news for the causes of Advanced Social Work or practice-relevant mental health research. It also removes a valuable London resource for enhancing the quality of services for people with mental health problems and their families,and supplying development opportunities for practitioners and their employing organisations.

    Through contact with you, Jack and Alan, and participation in the Maudsley Workshops, I’ve observed the way MSC participants have used the programme to gain research skills, conduct research to build the mental health knowledge-base, and integrate their learning from practice and research to provide a solid base for advanced social work. I think some employers have also recognised the potential for using their staff’s participation in the MSC to improve services more widely.

    In some ways the IoP’s closure decision is just another example of collateral damage caused by resource reductions. From a different angle, though, it signals a lack of priority for social work in mental health services, and a failure to grasp that for most people with mental health problems, clinical services are not the centre of their world. Their concerns are about survival in the real world of personal life-choices, having a place to live and a job to do, finding ways of making ends meet, sustaining relationships with children, partners and friends, belonging to social networks and groups with interests in common. It’s in these social dimensions that social work makes a distinctive contribution, relating on equal terms with clinicians for the benefit of people with mental health problems. Loss of the IoP MSC will make that harder.

  15. Dr.Barbara Hatfield says:

    Very disheartening to hear of the loss of the IoP programme. But very glad that you are continuing the fight to maintain and develop mental health social work research capacity at York. Vital to our discipline!

  16. Neil Sanyal says:

    Hello Martin,
    I am disappointed that the MSc course will be closing. I enjoyed my time doing this course at the IOP from 2005 to 2008 and learnt a lot there. I especially enjoyed Jack Nathan’s psychodynamic psychotherapy supervision sessions and only wish these were available in my own area. In an era where CBT is seen as “the Messiah” in terms of psychological interventions it was encouraging to learn from such an expert in his field. I will always be thankful for your fantastic support during my research dissertation as it was a hectic time for me. I learnt a lot about critical appraisal on the course, which has helped me since when reading research studies. I look forward to hearing how your new department gets on in York in September.

  17. Anna Fairtlough says:

    I am dismayed to learn about the end of social work at the Institute of Psychiatry. This programme had an excellent reputation and clearly has made a significant contribution to developing research and research mindedness amongst social work practitioners and in supporting professional social work leadership. There are so few advanced levels programmes for social workers. I had hoped that the development of the career structure in social work and the PCF would highlight the need for such programmes and encourage employers and practitioners to value advanced level practice, research and leadership. Sadly, in this instance the profession is moving in completely the wrong direction. What is the rationale for this disastrous decision?
    On a personal note though congratulations.

  18. Penny Collins says:

    First I would like to congratulate you on your progressive move and hide my disappointment that the IoP has lost such a leading figure in social work education and research. My experience of the course to date has given me a range of additional skills for my role , but refined so many aspects of myself that upon reflection hindered my intrest in beginning research in the field of social work. I like to thank you and your team , especially Caroline, Jack and Julie who made learning so enjoyable and collectively created an inspirations combination !! Good Luck Martin thank you xx

  19. steven walker says:

    Yet another act of intellectual vandalism which further demotes social work in general and our critical link with Mental Health in particular. I was fortunate to be on practice placement as a student social worker in the Children’s Dept at The Maudsley, where we shared facilities and resources with the Institute of Psychiatry next door. I would hope the College of Social Work is considering a formal reaction to this appaling short-sighted decision, whose only merit is the honesty to admit is based purely on financial grounds.

  20. Pearse McCusker says:

    Short-sighted in the extreme & just when the evidence base for the social determinants of mental distress is developing, alongside increasing awareness of the vital role social workers play in mental health contexts. It seems remarkably out of step with the intergration aganda for health and social services (albeit that’s also a thory subject), or has that become less of an issue in England and Wales? Martin, it must be very saddening….I guess the only positive is that it offers additional impetus for making the arguments and carrying out the research to highlight the need for more sophisticated, multi-perspective and humane mental health practice.

  21. Matt Bookle says:

    I was lucky enough to complete the course in 2010 and I must say it was a major motivating factor and helped me greatly to fully participate as a professional who had a sense of worth and belonging in the larger scheme of front line mental health service provision. I maintain a sense of gratitude to the team. While psychiatry may dominate, I managed to work in some teams where there was value placed on the broader sense of why people might be experiencing mental health difficulties and I felt the social work perspective was respected.
    I am saddened to hear the course is ending as I think it represents a step backwards in facilitating that broader perspective that is required in addressing the needs of those who use services. Given the levels of uncertainty in the efficacy of many of todays medications and the increasing numbers of people being admitted to hospital one must have concerns at what appears to be a gradual undermining of a strong independent social perspective. Dr Pat Bracken emphasised the difficulties associated with an overly dominant medical perspective in last weeks Irish Times here in Ireland and he highlighted the crucial role that empowerment has to play in the Irish mental health system moving forward.
    Good luck to you Martin. No doubt you will continue to build on your already significant contribution to social work practice and research. York have done well to attract someone with your commitment and generosity. Thanks again for the support and encouragement.

  22. Patrick Donohoe says:

    Hi Martin, terrible news but no surprise since Gove’s first act was to archive the ECM website and remove the rainbow from the DfES/DOH sites. It was as powerful a metaphor as you could find for the darkness descending over children’s services and indeed the wider health care system.

    This intellectual vandalism needs to be railed against. It goes alongside their promotion of reablement (what a bloody awful term that is) as a cost driver and not as a principle and their redesignation of so many health conditions as a means of reducing the welfare bill.

    For all it’s faults the ECM initiative really did a lot to bring different disciplines together as equals and the work done at the Institute of Psychiatry was a fantastic example of the way in which social work can not only hold it’s own as a discipline but also be a real driver for change and progress.

    Social Work for far too long has been like the shy, nervous, uncertain child who has a lot to say but dare not because the other kids seem so clever and smart and full of confidence.

    As we all know, some of the loudest, brashest voices just mask empty hearts and empty souls and a real lack of intellectual rigour.

    I hope you continue to shout from the walls of York to keep our profession from standing at the back chewing it’s knuckles whilst the bullies and the wide boys hold sway, we are so much better than that.


  23. Dr Ruth Allen has written a blog post on behalf of The College of Social Work:

    ‘This programme has run for more than three decades. It has been widely lauded for its success in developing effective social work leaders of practice for the future, using innovative assessment methods.’

    Read more on our website: http://www.collegeofsocialwork.org/Join_the_discussion/Closure_of_MSc_in_MH_Social_Work_at_Institute_of_Psychiatry/

  24. Steve Blandford says:

    I am stunned by this news. I undertook the the programme in 2003-2005. As well as enjoying the most stimulating and rewarding learning experiences in my life, I firmly believe that my practice has changed in a positive way since. Other students on the course have moved into lecturing or training SW’s as a result of the programme. The programme allowed me to refocus on the unique and essential role that SW’s play within mental health provision. The decison to axe the course seems incredibly shortsighted and it is hard not to view it as yet another dimunition in the status and value of social work within mental health.

  25. Really sad at the decision to axe the MSc at the IOP. I learnt a lot from this course and it inspired me to consolidate my skills and use them in my role as a Practice Supervisor. I feel this decision is very short sighted. Certainly in mental health the social work role is currently struggling within a health led environment. We need to up our game and fight back. Losing the training at the IOP is a retrograde step in trying to achieve this.

  26. I am sad to hear that this very special and unique social work course was terminated. This shows how these universities of KCL standard view social work. I am glad to have benefitted from this course and especially to have been taught by Martin and Jack. You were a brilliant team who valued all your students!

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