Social workers

There are powerful arguments to suggest that the most appropriate professionals to coordinate such services should be social workers. My argument throughout this book has been that people's emotional distress is largely determined by their social circumstances and life events. It makes sense, then, to see mental health and well-being services as integral to the social services delivered (in the UK) by local authorities. As I have - I hope - made clear, I not only see the future of mental health and well-being services as lying within those wider social services, and indeed organised and managed through local authorities, but I envisage a much more 'social' ethos behind those services. Meaningful recovery - defined in terms of social, psychological or occupational functioning - is influenced as much by social class, opportunities for employment and economic and social policy as by 'successful' treatment of what we currently think of as psychiatric symptoms.5 Social factors should therefore be integrated with psychological and biological elements in any care plan, and social interventions strongly supported. Social workers are currently the only mental health workers with specific and comprehensive education and training in social science.6 The training of social workers - like psychologists, psychiatrists and nurses - covers a wide range of theoretical perspectives and skills. The distinctive contribution of social workers, perhaps especially in promoting social inclusion, means they have important roles in organising and commissioning care packages beyond the NHS. While this is valuable, it may be worth considering the slightly more direct and therapeutic role offered by 'social pedagogues' elsewhere in the EU.7 This is a professional approach with a particular focus on early years education, but which can be useful with any age group. Not unlike occupational therapists, social pedagogues deploy a wide range of academic disciplines (sociology, psychology, education, philosophy, the medical sciences and social work) to help people develop their skills and self confidence in dealing with emotions and relationships.

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