I left work yesterday as an Approved Social Worker (ASW) and by the time I go to work on Monday, I will be an Approved Mental Health Professional (AHMP).
I signed my last papers and completed the last assessment at precisely 5.18pm (yes, I checked!) on the 31st October.
Times are changing.
We have been told to await the delivery of the new papers on Monday, no, they hadn’t arrived by the time I left on Friday.
We have been sent letters by our Director authorising us to act as AMHPs and emails instructing us to go to the Town Hall to collect new warrants next week with slightly different wording. No more mention of Social Worker.
In the Trust I work in, they haven’t yet worked out how the local authority will pay AMHPs who are employed by the NHS so access to training remains exclusively within the bounds of Social Workers.
But others are training nurses and OTs (Occupational Therapists) (I don’t know of any psychologists accessing the training currently but it might be happening.. somewhere.. ).
How do I feel about it?
Well, I have barely got used to the ASW role having only received my warrant in July.
For me, the most important part of the role (and I accept that, on the basis of the previous line, I am very far from being an expert and currently sweeping along on a massive learning curve) is independence.
For me, we are a check to the medical model and the role is tied in, very much, to providing a social perspective to the issue of compulsion under the Mental Health Act.
Can it only be a social worker that can do this? Clearly not. But having moved a couple of years back from an exclusively social work team to a multi-disciplinary health-based team I can see the massive differences in professional perspectives.
Hierarchy is the main difference. The health service has a very distinct hierarchy of grades and professions that has been ingrained in its culture over decades and possibly centuries.
Social Work is a lot less respectful of some of these boundaries. Perhaps it is easier for a social worker to question some of the decisions made by doctors than it is for nurses. Social Workers are trained to question authority and to study and examine the nature of power and its use and misuse in professional settings.
But ultimately, to use a terribly twee cliche – the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it.
Thinking of some of the people I work with and around, the CPNs and OTs particularly, there is no reason to believe that they would be any less competent or mindful of the importance of the role than someone who qualified as a social worker.
The AMHP training is very similar to the ASW training. The course I attended is almost identical but with additional courses in social policy and social perspectives. The content of the courses is still overseen by the GSCC in England (General Social Care Council which registers and oversees Social Workers and Social Work training).
Ultimately, there were not enough Approved Social Workers to meet the need. The net needed to be broadened.
I remain very much open-minded about the changes. Change is inevitable – it is the way of the world.