Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The social worker in community mental health teams: findings from a national survey

Abendstern, Michele; Wilberforce, Mark; Hughes, Jane; Arandelovic, Andelija; Batool, Saqba; Boland, Jennifer; Pitts, Rosa; Challis, David


Michele Abendstern

Mark Wilberforce

Senior Research Fellow

Andelija Arandelovic

Saqba Batool

Jennifer Boland

Rosa Pitts


Social workers have been members of community mental health teams for many years. However a combination of factors have resulted in their removal from CMHTs in some areas in recent years. This study presents findings from a national survey of CMHT team managers (44% response rate), conducted in 2018, to ascertain the current position of the social worker within CMHTs in England. Analyses focussed on membership, roles and tasks, and change within the previous 12 months. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the quantitative data and content analysis to interpret free text comments. Findings: Social workers were found to undertake a variety of generic roles and tasks but were reported to do so proportionally less often than nurses. A large minority were involved in non-traditional social work tasks such as monitoring medication. In one-fifth of teams, managers thought they had too few social workers. Free text comments suggested that managers valued social workers for their social perspective and expressed concern regarding their removal or the curtailment of their role, perceiving this as having a negative effect on overall CMHT service delivery. Applications: The findings provide evidence of some instability in the position of social workers within CMHTs in relation to both their membership and their involvement in traditional and non-traditional roles and tasks. Open text comments suggest that if a biopsychosocial model of mental health support, now recognised as essential to long-term wellbeing, is to be achieved, a social wok presence in CMHTs is required.


Abendstern, M., Wilberforce, M., Hughes, J., Arandelovic, A., Batool, S., Boland, J., …Challis, D. (in press). The social worker in community mental health teams: findings from a national survey. Journal of Social Work,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 17, 2020
Deposit Date Nov 20, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 30, -0001
Journal Journal of Social Work
Print ISSN 1468-0173
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Mental health; Community services; Inter-professional; Health and social care; Social work
Public URL
Publisher URL