Data found from local authorities shows that fewer social workers are being given Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) training.
The drop is being put down to budget cuts adding to workload pressures, resulting in a shortfall of trainees as it is not seen as a priority.
A study by Community Care shows fewer social workers are being trained as AMHP’s as a third of councils have cut the number of social workers they funded for training last year.
Data obtained from 134 local authorities in England and Wales revealed that 282 social workers were funded to undertake AMHP training in 2012/13, down from 298 trainees in 2011/12 and 289 trainees in 2010/11.
There has also been a significant decline in the number of social workers being assigned to AMHP positions, as it fell by around 40% in 2012/13. This is put down to an increased workloads in all positions without enough social workers to cover it, despite the risk it puts on patients for lack of adequate support.
The main reasons given by local authorities for less AMHP is there is less funding available, which results in training programmes being cancelled and less social workers being made available to go through the training as it is a lower priorty for allocation and senior local authority and NHS management are less likely to release social work or health staff to undertake AMHP training.
With fewer AMHP being trained, then results in presently trained social workers being reassigned to undertake the AMHP duties, putting more pressure on other workloads.
Daisy Bogg, a social worker and member of The College of Social Work’s AMHP leads network, said:
Effectively you’re releasing one of your team members for six months to do AMHP training, so a lot of managers, particularly if they are under pressure, don’t see it as a priority.
Training up staff as AMHPs definitely brings value to teams but that value comes after the training. Where senior managers recognise that it’s great, but a lot look at the short-term first, particularly at the moment.
Martin Webber, who led a national survey on the AMHP workforce published last year said:
Local authorities need to carefully audit the impact of the reductions in the number of AMHPs and ensure that they have a coherent workforce strategy regarding numbers, retention, recruitment and training.
British Association of Social Workers is worried that what is happening is salami slicing of an essential service, that is not only very important, but also a legal requirement.