Scope of Social Work Practice in Health

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1 in Health Section 1 The unique contribution of social work practice in the health context The social work profession operates at the interface between people and their social, cultural, physical and natural environments while recognising the impact of the economic, psychological, emotional, political, social, legal and environmental determinants on health and wellbeing. Social work plays a crucial role in identifying and addressing the implications of inequity on the health and wellbeing of individuals to achieve better health outcomes. Undertaking comprehensive and evidence-informed psycho-social assessments is the unique core of the social work scope of practice in health settings. Social workers draw on a broad range of theories, knowledge, research and skills to ensure comprehensive and holistic analysis of the client s situation. Social workers assessments range from targeted and brief specific-needs analyses through to comprehensive holistic psycho-social and risk assessments of the full range of social, biomedical and psychological needs, strengths and stressors impacting on the individual s health and wellbeing. These assessments underpin targeted and needs based interventions to address the psychosocial issues that are impacting on the individual s health and wellbeing Scope of practice in social work includes: Bereavement grief and loss support work. Socio-legal issues and ethical decision making, for example, advanced health directives, enduring power of attorneys, end-of-life decision making, withdrawal of life support systems and organ donation. Comprehensive discharge planning. Therapeutic intervention in relation to mental health, trauma, grief and loss. Family intervention and support, which includes family therapy and family case conferencing. Support in relation to chronic pain. Leadership in case management. Advocacy in relation to health inequalities to improve health outcomes for individuals. Psycho-education of patients and their families in both acute and primary health care settings. Crisis intervention, which can include psycho-social services provided to emergency departments and sudden traumatic injury or death. Advanced scope of practice in social work includes: Specialist clinical expertise in relation to child, youth and adult mental health. Specialist clinical expertise in palliative care and oncology. Addressing issues of chronic sorrow associated with grief and loss. Specialist clinical expertise in working with trauma across the age spectrum, which contributes to better outcomes for individuals and communities, for example, work in brain injury. Specialist clinical expertise in relation to child abuse and neglect, elder abuse and domestic and family violence. Specialist clinical expertise in relation to working with older people, including psycho-geriatric issues. Specialist policy and research roles to contribute to effective policy. Key multidisciplinary team members within the mental health sector aligned to a recovery-oriented framework. 1 Scope of Social Work Practice in Health 24 th July 2014

2 Social work scopes of practice can also be categorised in terms of the following three priorities. 1 Clinical Priority Priority 1: Safety/ risk Priority 2: Social/ psychological support Priority 3: Access to resources Definition Address safety and risk at an individual, family, and community level in order to encourage a safe environment for all vulnerable people. Social work intervenes at an individual, family and community level to ensure psychological and social support mechanisms are in place. This is acknowledgement of the vital connection between psychological supports and health status. Health social workers enhance fair and equitable access for individuals, families and communities to the resources required to meet basic human needs. Social workers add value at an organisational level by: reducing health service demand by facilitating clients timely and seamless transition through the health system; reducing inappropriate health service demand through comprehensive psycho-social assessments and intervention including linkages and referrals to community based services; preventing multiple readmissions by rigorous discharge planning, the establishment of strong, supportive familial and community networks and access to appropriate resources; facilitating and maintaining a quality workforce by supporting, educating and debriefing other health professionals; contributing to investment and future planning in health service delivery by innovative social work practices, programs and research activities, particularly with vulnerable populations, using new technologies and diverse strategic and community partnerships. Social workers add value to health care in complex situations Social workers are regularly involved when health treatment is impacted by complex social, psychological, family and institutional dynamics. With its focus on holistic care and the ability to consider the complexity involved from an ethical, legal, bio-psychosocial, systems and ecological perspective, social workers offer a unique and valuable contribution in providing appropriate and targeted services to meet the multidimensional needs of individuals Social workers prevent or minimise the psycho-social consequences of illness and disability. They help ensure the vulnerable and marginalised are not denied their rights. The human rights and social justice focus of social workers ensures that individuals within the health care system have access to information and are able to make decisions concerning their health and wellbeing. Accordingly, the profession of social work has a clear role in the continuum of health care services. 1 Giles, Gould, Hart and Swancott, Scope of Social Work Practice in Health 24 th July 2014

3 Section 2 Important considerations when employing a social worker Any applicant for a position as a social worker must have completed an approved degree in social work from an appropriate tertiary institution. An approved minimum degree is either a four-year Bachelor of Social Work or a Qualifying Masters in Social Work. Whatever the course, the applicant needs to provide evidence that their qualification AASW makes Trade them eligible Marks for membership to the Australian Association of Social Workers. It is preferable to employ an Accredited Social Worker or Accredited Mental Health Social Worker who is a member of the AASW with obligations around continuing professional education. You will identify Accredited Social Workers by their professional trademark. Accredited Social Worker Trade Mark AASW Accredited Social Worker This trade mark immediately tells you that the social worker: has an AASW accredited university degree level qualification, or overseas equivalent, in social work is a member of the AASW the professional body for social work in Australia has committed to and practices under a strict Code of Ethics and is accountable to a complaints process commits to, and completes a minimum amount of annual ongoing professional development and training and is up to date with professional approaches and knowledge. The Accredited Social Worker Collective trade Mark is a gold standard in professional recognition. Accredited Mental Health Social Worker Trade Mark AASW Accredited Mental Health Social Worker This trade mark immediately tells you that the social worker: has an AASW accredited university degree level qualification, or overseas equivalent, in social work is a member of the AASW the professional body for social work in Australia has committed to and practices under a strict Code of Ethics and is accountable to a complaints process has been formally assessed by the AASW, on behalf of the Australian Government, as having specific expertise, skills and sufficient experience in the provision of mental health services commits to and completes a minimum amount of annual ongoing professional development and training, of which a prescribed amount must be mental health specific, and is up- to-date with professional approaches and knowledge. The Accredited Mental Health Social Worker Collective Trade Mark is also a gold standard in professional recognition. 3 Scope of Social Work Practice 24 th July 2014

4 Educational and Ethical Basis Section 3 The educational and ethical basis of the profession Social work qualifications Social work is a tertiary-qualified profession recognised nationally and internationally. The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) is the key professional body representing social workers in Australia and is responsible for the accreditation of social work university programs. Graduates of AASW-accredited social work courses are eligible for membership of the AASW. Members who meet continuing professional development requirements, including professional supervision, are entitled to Accredited Social Worker status. The academic qualifications that applicants to the AASW are required to hold, are: a Bachelor of Social Work, Bachelor of Social Work with Honours, or a Social Work master s degree (Qualifying Master of Social Work). These courses have to be AASW accredited. The curriculum provides entry-level professional social work education addressing education, knowledge, skills and values that can be applied across the diverse range of practice settings, fields of practice and methods of social work practice. An extensive period of field education (placements in social work practice settings) assists the integration of theory and practice. Social work values, ethics and practice standards Social work is a values-based profession. These values are described as: Respect for persons Social justice Professional integrity The profession s ethics arise from these values, and form a core component of social work practice that relies on the ability to think critically within the framework set out in the AASW Code of Ethics. In turn, the Code of Ethics informs all AASW professional accreditation documents and policies, including the Practice Standards. The Practice Standards identify eight components of practice that apply across all settings in which Social Workers are employed. They are: Values and ethics; Professionalism; Culturally responsive and inclusive practice; Knowledge for practice; Applying knowledge to practice; Communication and interpersonal skills; Information recording and sharing; Professional development and supervision. These standards underpin the quality of social work practice in all settings and provide strong guidelines for professional commitment and accountability. 4 Scope of Social Work Practice Educational and Ethical Basis 24 th July 2014

5 The Profession Section 4 The social work profession The social work profession is committed to maximising the wellbeing of individuals and society. We consider that individual and societal wellbeing are underpinned by socially inclusive communities which emphasise principles of social justice and respect for human dignity and human rights, including the right to freedom from intimidation and AASW exclusion. Minimum Trade standards Marks of human rights include also the right to adequate health care, education, housing, employment and income. 2 The Australian social work profession adheres to the definition of social work jointly agreed by the International Federation of Social Workers and the International Association of Schools of Social Work: The social work profession facilitates social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and Indigenous knowledges, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing. 3 Social workers focus on the interface between the individual and the environment and recognise the impact of social, economic and cultural factors on individual wellbeing. They contribute an understanding of, and capacity to respond to, the specific psychological and emotional needs of individuals and build on individual strengths to empower people to exercise more direction over their life. 4 Professional social workers are present throughout the health field across a wide range of settings government, non-government and private. These settings and fields of practice include: hospitals; community health; Medicare locals; mental health; homelessness; refugee, asylum seeker and migrant services; alcohol and drug services; Indigenous services; policy and program development; management and governance; and all levels of government. Many social workers take up leadership roles across the course of their career, as team leaders, managers, executives and board directors. 2 AASW Disability Position Paper, July Practice Standards 2013, Canberra, p. 4 4 AASW Social Work and Mental Health Position Paper, ACT, p. 1 5 Scope of Social Work Practice The Profession 24 th July 2014

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