Social work is essential to integration, which is the stipulation we have made in a new Advice Note we have published today in conjunction with the Chief Social Worker for Adults, the Principal Social Worker Network and the Department of Health.

The guidance - for all social workers and councils, including senior managers and Directors of Adult Social Services – aims to support the social model and social care alongside health care and treatment.

Social work enables people to be included in work and communities. Social workers safeguard people’s rights when  compulsory admission or treatment is being considered, when people cannot make decision for themselves and are at risk of losing their liberty, or when they are being abused or neglected.

The Advice Note describes the necessity of support to ensure integration succeeds in providing the services that local people need. We need to show how social workers are essential to the whole system, not just their specific skills, knowledge and competencies in their areas of practice.

If greater integration of acute, community, mental health, primary health, and social care services aims to halt the increasing reliance on hospitals and deliver more support in the community, the social care and health system needs to maximise their social work resource to where it can have most impact.

There is emerging evidence of the value of a broader social work offer in the new care models, for example through Vanguard sites, in hospital discharge, and working alongside GPs. Social workers address the practical, social, and emotional issues that affect a person’s health and wellbeing, manage risk, support independence, and coordinate care to keep people at home.

Social workers and social care must play a vital role in these changing arrangements so that the whole system approach to working with people, their families, and communities really will deliver better outcomes and make best use of available public resources and people's own strengths and assets.

Rather than just relying on the health system  for understanding the person and their situations, social workers apply knowledge of systems thinking, use relationship focused approaches and techniques to enable individuals to change, manage their lives and protect themselves.

This social work contribution must be clear, captured, and communicated, so that there is a good understanding of its necessity. Social workers should be given the opportunity to share their experiences and knowledge at leadership meetings, with social work case studies embedded into any integration reporting.

Performance monitoring focusing on personal outcomes as well as quantitative performance data is more likely to evidence the social work contribution to improving people’s lives.

The emphasis in the Care Act 2014 itself is for person-centred care and social workers play a key role in ensuring the whole person is taken into consideration and how lives are changed for the better.

We aim to influence and impress NHS colleagues with the positive contributions social work can make to improving lives. We hope this Advice Note helps us all to achieve this important goal.


Cathy Kerr

Regional Lead for ADASS