The social worker in community mental health teams: Findings from a national survey

Michele Abendstern, Mark Wilberforce, Jane Hughes, Andelijia Arandelovic, Saqba Batool, Jennifer Boland, Rosa Pitts, David Challis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social workers have been members of community mental health teams (CMHTs) for many years. However, a combination of factors has resulted in their removal from CMHTs in some areas in recent years. This study presents findings from a 2018 national survey of CMHT team managers (44% response rate), to ascertain the current position of the social worker within CMHTs in England. Analyses focussed on membership, roles and tasks, and change within the previous 12 months. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the quantitative data and content analysis to interpret free text comments.

Social workers were found to undertake a variety of generic roles and tasks but were reported to do so proportionally less often than nurses. A large minority were involved in non-traditional social work tasks such as monitoring medication. In one-fifth of teams, managers thought they had too few social workers. Free text comments suggested that managers valued social workers for their social perspective and expressed concern regarding their removal or the curtailment of their role, perceiving this as having a negative effect on overall CMHT service delivery.

The findings provide evidence of some instability in the position of social workers within CMHTs in relation to both their membership and their involvement in traditional and non-traditional roles and tasks. Free text comments suggest that if a biopsychosocial model of mental health support, now recognised as essential to long-term wellbeing, is to be achieved, a social work presence in CMHTs is required.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Social Work
Early online date18 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2021


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