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Social workers

Social work is an important profession within mental health services, working across local authorities, health services, the independent and voluntary services. Social Work is regulated by Social Work England.

In mental health services, social workers often undertake intensive post-qualifying training to hold roles linked to the Mental Health Act 1983 or Mental Capacity Act, such as Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP), Best Interest Assessor and Non-Medical Approved/Responsible Clinician (AC/RC).

Social workers comprise 95 per cent of the 3,750 Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHPs), but less than five of the non-medical approved clinicians come from a social work background.

The New Roles Task and Finish Group recommended the inclusion of social workers as a core part of HEE’s mental health workforce plan as a key lever to achieving Long Term Plan ambitions and to alleviate workforce pressure across the sector. We are also exploring the possibility of expanding this workforce using Higher Education Institute pathways, apprenticeships and fast-track models in specialist roles.


The below provides the details of work we have achieved with our partners:


HEE has launched an interactive report, Transforming Mental Health Social Work, about the role and development of mental health social work; capturing the key themes and learning from two major conferences held earlier this year. The report includes links to short videos with key speakers, who are senior leaders in health and social care in England.

The conferences, held in Leeds and London, were organised and hosted by HEE and Skills for Care and showcased the work of the HEE New Roles in Mental Health group. This included previews of the resources, toolkits and guidance in development. Delegates were invited to comment and feed back on the drafts. Their feedback has been used to inform this final version.

HEE commissioned 11 videos centered on real-life experience of specialists in the social work field. See the video playlist.

Forensic services are a specialist part of mental health services supporting people who have higher levels of risk or detention in secure care or within the criminal justice system. The Health Education England ‘New Roles in Mental Health’ social work group has been exploring in detail the expertise of social workers working in forensic mental health and how we can support them to undertake this important role. We commissioned our colleague Jacob Daly, Senior Mental Health Social Worker, to undertake this forensic social work report and to explore any possible recommendations or developments that can support the development of social work within forensic services. 

This toolkit supports the National Workforce Plan for Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) and forms part of the resources commissioned and developed by HEE’s New Roles in Mental Health Social Work Group. Following the publication of the Workforce Plan, Social Work for Better Mental Health developed guidance supporting the AMHP Service Standards and tested it in some local authorities. The accompanying toolkit aims to guide local authorities and others in using the standards.

In this film, Mark Trewin, HEE Chair of the New Roles Implementation Group for Social Work, describes the important role mental health social workers and Approved Mental Health Professionals play in services. Working across the NHS, local authorities, voluntary and independent sectors, these roles ensure that the social model of mental health is at the core of our integrated services. The new roles work of Mark’s group focuses on expanding and enhancing the role of the mental health social worker, and providing support and guidance to NHS and other organisations on how best to recruit, retain and develop this key workforce.

This guidance is designed to support all agencies that employ social workers. It has been produced to sit alongside the Local Government Association’s employers’ guidance and give detailed advice and support to develop the social work role across all mental health settings and organisations. It is based on the learning from the ‘social work for better mental health’ programme, working across over 70 organisations, assessing and developing their integrated arrangements. It has been updated to reflect the contribution which social work can make to mental health services during the Covid-19 epidemic. If you would like this document in another format please email mentalhealth@hee.nhs.uk.

Mark Trewin, Chair of the HEE New Roles in Mental Health Social work programme, explains in this blog why a trauma-informed approach is even more relevant now to the skills development of staff working in mental health.

The Open Dialogue approach is a form of trauma-informed practice, the subject of this blog by Yasmin Ishaq. This is a strengths-based approach, which seeks to understand and respond to the impact of trauma on people’s lives. Keeping the sensitivities of people who may be trauma survivors or experiencing distressing events  in focus and understanding how social inequalities shape these experiences is therefore the first step towards trauma-informed practice.