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The Past, Present and Future of Mental
Health Social Work
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SHULAMIT RAMON
Centre for Mental Health Recovery
University of Hertfordshire
[email protected]
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The Historical Roots of MHSW
The 1920: The Tavistock and the Hackney Jewish Child Guidance
Clinic
MHSW in the Psychiatric Hospitals: The Duly Authorised Officer;
Mental Welfare Officer (The Percy Report (Ramon, 1985, Rapaport
and Manthorpe, 2009), Psychiatric Social Worker
Generic social work:
A.Mental health Issues in working with children, their parents, adults,
and older people (Fishher, Newton & Sainsbury, 1984)
B.The negation of mental health needs in generic social work and in
current specialised services (child protection, adults with disabilities,
older people) (Stanley and Penhale, 1999, Manthorpe et al, 2005)
From ASW to AMHP: Handling Risk (Barnes et al, 1990, Hatfield,
2008, Reith, 1998, Rapaport, 2006)
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In parallel we need to ask what has been the formal and
informal role of MHSW
in the major policy shifts within mental health:
The move to introducing community care in the field of
mental health
The De-institutionalisation programme (Ramon, 1992,
Stanley, Manthorpe and Penhale, 1999)
A Unique Role? MHSW within the NSF (1999) (Rapaport,
2005)
“Integration” : social workers as team leaders of mental
health services (Shears, 2009)
Within the current focus on user and carer involvement
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Social Work and its complexities:
Street bureaucrats, managerialism, and
psychosocial professionalism.
Value system focused on the right of troubled
individuals to respect, self-determination and
social support, yet with a social mandate which
includes both care and control.
Social work as a semi profession; the antitheoretical and anti-research stance
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Mental health social work as a contextualised and multifaceted activity
Conceptual innovations
paying attention to institutional abuse, child and elder abuse, and the strong
connection between abuse and mental ill health (Stanley, Manthorpe &
Penhale, 1999).
self-directed groupwork highlighting the possibility of putting together
community development with empowerment principles (Mullender & Ward,
1991).
Social inclusion: an emphasis on partnership working with users, and their
involvement in policy making, training and research (Barnes & Bowl, 2000;
Ramon, 2003; Beresford, 2005).
Social inclusion: anti-discrimination in its implications for ethnic minorities,
disabled people, women and poor people (Walker, 2004).
Social Inclusion: The strength approach and the recovery model (Rapp, 1992,
Wallcraft, 2005, Ramon, 2007)
Initiating wellbeing and peer support service in primary care (Changing
Minds, Northampton, 2007)
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MHSW - a tradition of innovatory practice
establishing attachments of social workers to primary care, beginning
in a Kentish Town practice in 1966 (Brewer and Lait, 1978).
the Barnet Intensive Crisis Intervention Service, pioneered by social
workers and psychiatrists in 1974 (Mithcell 1993).
Self Help for isolated mothers, established by social workers at the
Family Welfare Association in Tower Hamlet (Knight, 1978).
the Chesterfield Support Network, established by Derbyshire social
services in 1982 (Hennelly, 1990).
the first user policy forum in the UK - the Camden Consortium established by Iris Nutting, then team leader of Camden social services
in Friern Barnet hospital in North London (1984).
the Building Bridges project, which attended to the needs of parents
with mental illness and their children in different, and imaginative
ways (Diggins, 2000, ScieDrive, 2005).
Family group conference (Essex social services, 2003)
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The Approved Social Worker (ASW) era:
advantages and disadvantages
Developing psychosocial assessment at an acute
crisis point
Mutifaceted work with users, carers, and other
disciplines
Looking for the Least Restrictive Altenative to
Hospitlaisation
Balancing risk avoidance with risk taking (Foster,
2005)
Giving up other mental health social work tasks
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Current Dilemmas
Everyday practice difficulties: e.g. police not coming out
when its called
Too few workers;
Feeling marginalised and disempowered in the partnership
trusts;
Clients who do not seem to get better;
The introduction of the AMHP and its significance for
MHSW;
Not enough resources, not enough of the type needed;
Pressure to focus on risk avoidance at the expense of all
other elements (Ramon, 2006)
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Felt demoralisation and its underlying reasons
Expressed dis-satisfaction (Huxley et al, 2004;
Reduced number of workers, increased caseload;
Older workforce;
Unhappiness with government policy:
“in the name of integration”
the introduction of AMHP (Rapaport, 2006);
the narrowness of the role
Negative public opinion (Wallace, 1985)
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But continued negation of:
The focus on recovery and social inclusion is here to stay
and requires a reconsideration of many taken for granted
assumptions;
Users hardly recognise social work mental health as a
factor in their
lives;
Social workers do not recognise the need to re-negoriate
their relationships with users and carers;
Policy is not only coming from above;
Research is not unimportant for practice
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The price of the anti-theoretical, anti-research
stance
Lack of knowledge of basic evidence;
Readiness to accept as gospel largely
uncorroborated claims
Difficulty in using evidence to change practice;
Inability to participate, initiate and apply
research;
Difficulty to be critical and reflective beyond the
use of intuition;
Unprepared for battle with other stakeholders
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A way forward:
The challenge is to:
combine the best from the past with the promise of the future
without giving up the value base and the focus on maintaining the
psychosocial
link.
in a way which is both strategic and practice oriented
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Reconstruction of the conceptual basis and practice
Move away from focus on the pathological to strengths
Move into genuine partnerships with users and carers
Renegotiation of Power (Smith, 2008)
Re-introduce community work as a method
Use of CBT and SFT in everyday mental health social work
Introduce project involvement for every mental health social worker,
PAR methodology underlying each project, as a way to combine
partnership, with evidence based innovation in practice
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“Easily said than done”
Some of these tasks are short term, while others are long term
Some require alliances and partnership inside and outside social work;
Social work academics and researchers are natural allies.
You can begin with the easy change target..
In praise of positive resistance
At the end of the day, if MHSWs will not do lead this change effort,
they will be
confrtoned yet again with solutions imposed on them, often coming
from sources
which understand much less then they do about MHSW and for whom
MHSW
is of much less importance.
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References
Barnes, M. & Bowl, R. (2000) Taking over the asylum: Empowerment and mental health. Basingstoke:
Palgrave.
Brewer, C. & Lait, J. (1978) Can social work survive? London: Temple Smith.
Diggins, M. (2000) Innovation as a way of professional life - the Building Bridges Project for parent-users
of mental health services and their children. In: S. Ramon (ed) A stakeholder's approach to innovation in
mental health services: A reader for the 21st century. Brighton: Pavilion Publishing, pp 75-91.
Essex Social Services (2003) Family Group Conferences in Mental Health, Essex Social Services,
Chelmsford.
Fisher, M., Newton, C., Sainsbury, E. (1984) Mental Health Social Work Observed. London: Allen and
Unwin.
Foster, N. (2005) Control, citizenship and "risk" in mental health: perspectives from UK, USA and
Australia. In: S. Ramon & J. Williams. (eds) Mental health at the crossroads: The promise of the
psychosocial approach. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp.30-42.
Hatfield, B. (2008) Powers to detain under Mental Health Legislation in England and the role of the
Approved Social Worker: An analysis of the patterns and trends under the 1983 Mental Health Act in six
local authorities. British Journal of Social Work, 38, 8, 1553-1571.
Hennelly, R. (1990) Mental Health Resource Centres. In: S. Ramon (ed) Psychiatry in transition: British
and Italian experiences. London: Pluto Press
Huxley, P. Evans, S., Webber M. & Gately, C. (2004) Survey of mental health social workers in England
and Wales. Social Care Workforce Research Unit: London.
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Knight, C. (1978) Neighbourhood support groups. London: Family Welfare Association.
Manthorpe, J. Illiffe, S. Eaden, A. (2005) Timely Responses to Dementia. Journal of Social work, 5,2, 191203.
Mitchell, R. (1993) Crisis intervention in practice: The multidisciplinary team and the mental health social
worker. Aldershot: Avebury
Mullender, A. & Ward, D. (1991) Self-directed groupwork, London : Whiting & Birch
Ramon, S. (1992) The workers’ perspective: living with ambiguity, ambivalence and challenge. In: Ramon,
S. (ed) Psychiatric Hopsital Closure: Myths and Realisties. London: Chapman Hall, 85-121.
Ramon, S. (2003) (ed) Users Researching Health and Social Care: An Empowering Agenda?
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mental illness. In: D. Saleeby (ed) The strengths approach in social work. New York: Longman, pp 45-58.
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Reith, M. (1998) Community Care Tragedies: APractice Guide to Mental Health Inquiries.
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Saleeby, D. (1992) (ed) The strength approach in social work. New York: Longman
Shears, J. (2009) Synergy of Difference: Researching the Outcomes of the Integration of
Community Mental Health Teams in Newshire. Submitted Ph.D., Faculty of Health and Social
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Smith, R. (2008) Social Work and Power. Basingstoke:Palgrave Macmillan
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Child Portection System: Identifying Needs and Appropriate Responses. Child Abuse Review.
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