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The role of a social worker

Explain the role of the social worker and consider the purpose of intervention and service delivery making links with Anti-Discriminatory Practice and Anti-Oppressive Practice and the importance of working in partnership with users of services and other professionals and agencies.

In this assignment I am going to be looking at mental health. In particular mental health affecting older people. I am aware that mental health issues affect people of all ages affecting each individual in a unique way.

A social workers role can be described in many ways and the role can vary depending on the service user. However in general social workers aim to empower people to make decisions for themselves. An essential part of the social workers role is working as part of a multi-disciplinary team and sign-posting service users to all services applicable to them. The fundamental principles of good social work practice are knowledge, skills and value's, they all go hand in hand. They are useful divisions that can aid understanding. To ensure good practice all 3 need to be used together, making competent social work practice.

Focusing on mental health in older people as your client it is important a social worker to be aware of and work within The Mental Health Act 1983. The Mental Health Act 1983 was established to ensure approved mental health professionals assess and treat people with mental health conditions and to protect the rights of these service users. It provides safeguards for people in hospitals as well.

When looking at the history of mental health what stands out is that through the centuries there has been an accepted way of dealing with people with mental health problems. However the used method in the past is now considered to be inhumane and largely unsuccessful, but also at this time alongside the orthodox practitioners there were others with a more enlightened approach. Most histories concentrate on the gruesome facts rather than the positive aspects, going back as far as Victorian times, for example the Victorian asylums. Historical notes show how there isn't much that is actually new in today's approaches, it has all been said before but the issue with their acceptance is that mainstream treatment still retains its hold.

Mental health problems are considered to be more common in older adults. The most common mental health condition among older people is depression.

"Depression affects 1 in 5 older people living in the community and 2 in 5 living in care homes.

-Adults in Later Life with Mental Health problems, Mental Health Foundation quoting Psychiatry in the Elderly (3rd edition) Oxford University Press (2002)"

(http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/information/mental-health-overview/statistics, 2006)

However another common illness affecting older people is dementia.

""Dementia affects 5% of people over the age of 65 and 20% of those over 80. About 700,000 people in the UK have dementia (1.2% of the population) at any one time.

-National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2004)"

(http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/information/mental-health-overview/statistics,  2006)

As a social worker upon meeting the client, your initial role is to carry out a carer's assessment. You need to carry out an accurate assessment to enable you to make the necessary recommendations and referrals. This leads to signposting to relevant services even when the client doesn't meet the service criteria. For successful signposting you need to have an accurate understanding of how relevant organisations in mental health are MIND. Your assessment gives you the relevant information to be aware of what you need to do for your client. You now need to gain trust and build a positive relationship. However you need to be professional and always be honest, you are not the client's friend, as being their friend conflicts with personal boundaries. You need to be clear and define your role to avoid confusion. You will be keeping records, discussing secrets and reporting to other professionals.

A successful model of assessment for this type of client is SWOT. This involves looking at the strengths and weaknesses which are the advantages and disadvantages for our client. Then looking at the opportunities which involve looking at all opportunities for change that you can provide. The final part of your SWOT analysis means looking at the threats. SWOT analysis helps you to think through each issue allowing you to look at the problem and lead to possible solutions and prepare for possible threats. A major and vital part of this particular assessment is about what's happening now. A SWOT analysis provides evidence to explain your actions. It needs to be specific, and will vary dramatically from person to person. It is a helpful tool in helping you to weigh up the pro's and con's and help you to balance them out.

With mental health the actual illness is going to have a major affect on the SWOT analysis. The stage of the illness can be an advantage or a disadvantage. A threat with mental health will always be the deterioration of the illness. With older people family can be a major strength if they play an active part in the client's life. However bare in mind the lack of a family can be a big disadvantage, having affects on the client.

Anti-oppressive practice is a piece of social work jargon, but is based on a very simple yet important idea. Social work is all about empowering others and assisting those who feel oppressed in getting both their needs and rights recognised and met. Anti-oppressive practice is informed by values and always takes into consideration both the views and experiences of oppressed people.

"Practitioners are required to analyse how the socially constructed divisions of race, age, gender, class, sexuality and disability, and the impact of differential access to resources interconnect and interact to define the life experiences of individuals and communities." (Davies, 2009, p14)

Therefore the practitioner is able to both recognise and challenge all situations of oppression within their work.

Anti-discriminatory practice emphasises the different ways in which people tend to be discriminated against, as individuals and groups, it also highlights the need for professional practice to counter such discrimination. Discrimination can occur due to lots of different types of oppressive differentiation.

"The primary goal of anti-discriminatory practice is the promotion of equality and social justice." (Davies, 2009, p13)

Anti-discriminatory practice is not a separate social work theory or method, but a value that should under-pin all practice generally. Both anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice theories seek to assist clients to gain awareness into how oppression affects their lives, and to promote different strategies for opposing discrimination and gaining mutual support. It should also prevent different agencies from being discriminatory.

True partnership working can create empowerment. It is a basic part of good practice and of values work. Feeling the need to 'rescue' the client is oppressive; you should be working with the service user to 'rescue themselves'. Helping clients to become more independent and less dependent on the system is a positive way forward, and should have a positive long-term affect on the client. Effective partnership is based on a variety of factors and therefore will vary accordingly. A few of these factors are based on values, beliefs, ideals and even practical factors such as funding and resources.

Social workers have a duty of responsibility to both the client and other family members who play an active role in the client's life. You should work together with your service user, their family and other agencies, you all need to be aware of difficulties and expect setbacks but remember you can get through it together. When working with other agencies you need to share the responsibility and have open and honest communication. A social workers role is one of both care manager and care co-ordinator.

In mental health you will need to be working with other organisations and as it is a health issue you will be working with medical professionals.

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