A new report suggests that the number of social workers in drugs services should be boosted, as part of an effort to reverse a “significant deterioration” in the quantity and quality of the workforce.
The second part of Dame Carol Black’s government-commissioned report into substance misuse was published earlier this month.
The report stated that: “The drug treatment and recovery workforce has deteriorated significantly in quantity, quality and morale in recent years, due to excessive caseloads, decreased training and lack of clinical supervision.”
Black added: “The only effective treatments for people dependent on non-opioid drugs are psychosocial interventions including cognitive behavioural therapy, yet people with professional skills in these areas are in very short supply. Dedicated social work teams for drugs and alcohol are also disappearing.”
As a result, services have become increasingly reliant on staff with minimal professional qualifications. While recommended caseloads were 40 or fewer, a recent survey also revealed that drugs keyworkers carried average caseloads of 50.
“Caseloads of this size have both safety risks and mean that practitioners will not be able to provide the intensive support needed by some of those in treatment”, said Black.
In the report, Black urged the Department of Health and Social Care to commission Health Education England to devise a comprehensive strategy to increase the number of qualified staff. She also proposed a more health-based approach to drug treatment and recovery.
Existing drug treatment service providers have welcomed Black’s recommendations and asked for government action.
Turning Point’s Clare Taylor said: “The proposals for increased professionalisation of the workforce are much needed and we are pleased to see that the review acknowledges the value added by people who’ve experienced addiction themselves working alongside clinicians to support others in their recovery.”
She added: “Drug related deaths, which we know are preventable, are at an all time high and the status quo is simply not acceptable.”
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