4.2 Essential shared capabilities for mental health
While professional groups will be expected to retain their distinctive roles to some extent, the demand for change is increasingly strong. Professionals are increasingly expected to focus on the range of elements of good practice which they share, many of which have been historically associated with social work. One important example of the demand for change in this direction can be found in the introduction in England of The Ten Essential Shared Capabilities: A Framework for the Whole of the Mental Health Workforce (National Institute for Mental Health in England and Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, 2004). You can see a summary of the ten capabilities in the following box.
The ten essential shared capabilities for mental health practice
Working in Partnership. Developing and maintaining constructive working relationships with service users, carers, families, colleagues, lay people and wider community networks. Working positively with any tensions created by conflicts of interest or aspiration that may arise between the partners in care.
Respecting Diversity. Working in partnership with service users, carers, families and colleagues to provide care and interventions that not only make a positive difference but also do so in ways that respect and value diversity including age, race, culture, disability, gender, spirituality and sexuality.
Practising Ethically. Recognising the rights and aspirations of service users and their families, acknowledging power differentials and minimising them whenever possible. Providing treatment and care that is accountable to service users and carers within the boundaries prescribed by national (professional), legal and local codes of ethical practice.
Challenging Inequality. Addressing the causes and consequences of stigma, discrimination, social inequality and exclusion on service users, carers and mental health services. Creating, developing or maintaining valued social roles for people in the communities they come from.
Promoting Recovery. Working in partnership to provide care and treatment that enables service users and carers to tackle mental health problems with hope and optimism and to work towards a valued lifestyle within and beyond the limits of any mental health problem.
Identifying People's Needs and Strengths. Working in partnership to gather information to agree health and social care needs in the context of the preferred lifestyle and aspirations of service users, their families, carers and friends.
Providing Service User Centred Care. Negotiating achievable and meaningful goals; primarily from the perspective of service users and their families. Influencing and seeking the means to achieve these goals and clarifying the responsibilities of the people who will provide any help that is needed, including systematically evaluating outcomes and achievements.
Making a Difference. Facilitating access to and delivering the best quality, evidence-based, value-based health and social care interventions to meet the needs and aspirations of service users and their families and carers.
Promoting Safety and Positive Risk Taking. Empowering the person to decide the level of risk they are prepared to take with their health and safety. This includes working with the tension between promoting safety and positive risk taking, including assessing and dealing with possible risks for service users, carers, family members, and the wider public.
Personal Development and Learning. Keeping up-to-date with changes in practice and participating in life-long learning, personal and professional development for one's self and colleagues through supervision, appraisal and reflective practice.
The ten shared capabilities now form the basis for the education and training for all mental health professionals in England and Wales, regardless of their occupational group or discipline. Such a trend towards an emphasis on shared capabilities between professions is to be found throughout the UK. Therefore, they form the foundations for practice in relation to mental health for your training as a social worker. Notice how similar these capabilities are to what is regarded as good practice in social work. For some commentators, this kind of development represents a threat to the very survival of social work in mental health services because it begs the question, if all professionals are practising in ways which have traditionally been associated with social work, why do we still need social workers? As two social work academics have put it:
If it is to survive, mental health social work will need to define and communicate what is unique and valuable in its contribution to mental health services […]
Stanley and Manthorpe, 2001, p.96
The changes in policy and legislation that are taking place in the twenty-first century mean that the contribution made by social work as a profession, and by individual social workers within CMHTs and other settings, is as important now as it has ever been. Most importantly though, social workers will need to find ways to articulate to others what is valuable about what we do, something we have not been very good at in the past, as the quotation above suggests.