Social Work Events Working in greyscale: Understanding the role and position of social work in mental health services in England and Wales

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This lunchtime learning seminar brought to you by Yorkshire Urban and Rural Teaching Partnership promotes communication and knowledge sharing between academics and social work and social care professionals.


Social work is central to the provision of mental health care in England and Wales.  However, there is a lack of oversight and agreement on the structure and contribution of social work in mental health settings, and provision is dependent on local priorities, organisation agreements and available resources.  This has left mental health social work unclearly defined as a professional specialism, with varying organisational and service contexts further influencing the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of practice.

This research aimed to establish an understanding of mental health social work provision and to explore how mental health social workers perceive their role, accounting for variation and similarity across the range of practice contexts, to identify the ‘core characteristics’ of mental health social work.  A survey of social work providers was used to map mental health social work provision at a national level.  248 social workers from a range of practice contexts were surveyed on their views on professional identity and practice context, with thirty also taking part in an interview to explore this more fully.  Participants saw their professional role as an interaction of tasks, values and knowledge which informed a distinctive approach to practice.  Their externally facing, task-based roles were sensitive to practice environments and influences, but values and knowledge-based roles were consistent across settings.  This suggests that definitions of mental health social work need to be distinguished from the activities of practice if this workforce is to be understood as a profession.


Dr Laura Tucker.

Laura is a qualified social worker and social researcher.  She worked in the health and social care sector from 2004 across a range of voluntary and statutory agencies, primarily in mental health, before moving into research to look at social work roles in mental health and to try and answer the critical question about why she kept being mistakenly identified as a psychiatric nurse.  Laura currently works within the International Centre for Mental Health Social Research at the University of York, with recent projects focusing on support to unpaid carers during hospital leave, bringing social work academics into practice, and marginalised groups access to mental health services.

How to book

Before booking please check with your Line Manager/Workforce Development team to ensure that your application follows any local policy and procedures.

Delivery Method

This session will be delivered virtually.  Participants who have booked will be sent the event link during the week before the session.

Venue details
Virtual Teams Meeting