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Identifying and Assessing Substance Use: Findings from a National Survey of Social Work and Social Care Professionals

Galvani, S and Hutchinson, A and Dance, C (2013) Identifying and Assessing Substance Use: Findings from a National Survey of Social Work and Social Care Professionals. The British Journal of Social Work, 44. ISSN 0045-3102

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Abstract

Social care practitioners regularly encounter problematic substance use among their service users. However, most social care practitioners do not specialise in substance use and there is limited evidence on their practice with it. This study aimed to explore the practice of social care professionals when they encounter substance use in the course of their work. This article focuses specifically on how they identify and assess substance use. A web-based survey was disseminated to 3,164 practitioners in adults' (AS) and children's (CS) social care in eleven different local authorities in England. Twelve focus groups were also held. AS and CS practitioners identified substance problems by their impact on their service user's ability to fulfil their responsibilities or perform daily functions. Differences in relation to assessment were found between AS and CS practitioners. CS practitioners asked questions more frequently and were more likely to state that asking about substance use was a legitimate task. Very few practitioners had practice guidance or tools to help them assess substance use. Substance use is being identified and assessed in social care but often at a late stage with little to no guidance on how to do so effectively.

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