Posts Tagged ‘national conference’

Where is the professional leadership in social work?

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

What does it mean to be an advanced practitioner in social work and does this role include a professional responsibility for leadership? With the increasing focus on interprofessional and multi-disciplinary work in both adults and children’s services, comparisons will be drawn with allied professionals such as doctors, nurses, teachers and psychologists. The new roles of Approved Mental Health Professional, Best Interest Assessor, Independent Mental Capacity Advocates and Responsible Clinician detailed in the Mental Capacity Act. 2005.offer challenges and opportunities for social workers to  contribute their specialist skills and knowledge in a wider range of settings.

The Children’s Workforce Development Council strategy outlined in the Building Better Future – Next steps for the Workforce identifies the need to develop and pilot a framework for professional development for social workers, including those in specialist roles. This will set out the standards and competences expected at different career stages, provide a coherent career pathways, improved development planning and incentives for advanced social workers to remain on the front line.

The role of the advanced practitioner will be explored further in the 2nd UK Mental Health Social Work Continuing Professional Development Conference on Friday 11th July.2008. Social workers in mental health services require strong professional leaders to promote the values, skills and experience of the profession within multi-disciplinary environments. However, the concept of professional leadership in mental health social work is in its infancy and has not yet been universally adopted by employers. This conference will provide the opportunity for discussion and debate about this important subject. You can still book a place by downloading the forms here 

With 5 keynote speakers, 30 papers in 10 symposia and 2 lunchtime film shows the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, Making Research Count and the University of Bedfordshire are to be congratulated on providing such an extensive conference programme which will enable practitioners to reflect and share best practice in the mental health field.

The Professional Leadership symposium is one of ten symposia offered at the conference. The full programme can be viewed here This symposium will draw upon the experience of the MSc in Mental Health Social Work with Children & Adults programme at the Institute of Psychiatry in developing professional leaders amongst mental health social workers. The key elements of professional leadership will be explored along with a vision for its future in mental health social work. Because professional leadership also includes the development of new knowledge through original research, research conducted by an advanced practitioner is included to exemplify professional leadership in action.

S8 Paper 1: Professional leadership in mental health social work: what does it mean and how do we achieve it? 

Martin Webber – Programme Leader, MSc in Mental Health Social Work with Children & Adults, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London


Mental health social work in England and Wales is characterised by uncertainty and low morale. The new Mental Health Act 2007 has opened up the Approved Social Work role to other mental health professionals leaving many to question what the unique contribution of social work to contemporary mental health services actually is. In the absence of a Royal College (provided for other mental health professions) or another authoritative body which defines and promotes social work practice in mental health services, it is largely up to individual practitioners to make and defend their contribution to multi-disciplinary teams.

In this paper I argue that professional leaders are in a strong position to promote good practice, develop the evidence-base for social work and help to define future roles for social workers within mental health services. Professional leadership is currently provided by advanced social work practitioners who can demonstrate an ability to offer advanced and reflective supervision, conduct original research and confidently assert the positive and unique contribution that social workers make to mental health services.

S8 Paper 2: Advanced practitioners: professional leaders in practice

Jack Nathan – Lead Consultant Adult Psychotherapist, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Course Tutor, MSc in Mental Health Social Work with Children & Adults, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London


This paper will explore what it means to be an advanced social work practitioner in mental health services today. It starts by discussing previously published work by the presenter which looks at the way in which social workers can develop competency beyond Schon’s ‘knowing-in-action’ and / or ‘reflection-in-action’. For example, the essential elements of an advanced practitioner include:

• knowledge of theories informing social work practice;

• knowledge of the current evidence-base; and

• the development of new knowledge through original research, undertaken within the workplace.

These ideas will then be applied to contemporary mental health social work to identify the opportunities and challenges for professional leaders today and in the future.

Jack Nathans previous paper The advanced practitioner: Beyond reflective practice can be downloaded here. Advanced Practitioner (Jack Nathan)

S8 Paper 3: Professional leadership in action. Identifying the support needs of children whose parents have mental illness: a survey of mental health professionals’ attitudes in Kingston-upon-Thames

Karin Slack – Senior Practitioner in Social Work & Approved Social Worker, Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames


This paper reports on a study published earlier this year1 that was conducted by  practitioner as part of the MSc in Mental Health Social Work with Children and Adults programme at the Institute of Psychiatry. The study aimed to explore attitudes of mental health professionals in one outer London borough regarding support needs of mental health service users’ children, to test for associations between demographic and professional factors, and practitioners’ views and practices, and to highlight barriers to identifying/meeting the support needs of service users’ children.

All statutory mental health teams in the borough participated in a cross sectional survey. The response rate was 94 out of 150 (62.7%). The sample consisted of a diverse range of professionals, in both inpatient and community settings.

The study found that practitioners were in favour of supporting children. However, attitudes and practices were significantly associated with profession, setting, and whether the respondent was a care co-ordinator. Social workers were the least likely to indicate that it was not their role to do so. Few associations were found with demographic characteristics or experience. The perceived barriers to supporting children were highlighted in this study. Responding professionals considered supporting children important but did not necessarily consider it their role to do so. Training is needed to raise awareness about this issue.

We will be reporting on the key issues raised at the conference in the next week

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