SCIE Report 2: Working with families with alcohol, drug and mental health problems
By Patricia Kearney, Enid Levin and Gwen Rosen
Published June 2003
The services that have been set up to help the children and parents in families with alcohol, drug and mental health problems are located in and administered by a number of different organisations. The routes into these services vary and, once referred, the range of teams and practitioners in health, social services and the independent sector that may potentially become involved with these adults and children is wide. Even those services that are within one organisation can be separate and work independently from one another. Effective collaboration across the many interfaces and a sharp focus on the family as a whole are essential if these children and their parents are to receive appropriate help, advice and guidance.
This report focuses on the policies and practices that can promote integrated services to families. It makes a number of recommendations for improving joint practice, some of which are listed below.
The guide is aimed at senior managers and social care workers in children's services and adults' services in local authorities. It is also aimed at workers and managers in other services that may be involved with families with alcohol and mental health problems such as local health services.
Messages from the report
Recommendations for improving joint working between adults' and children's services
- Social services departments and their partner agencies should conduct audits to estimate the nature and extent of the impact of families with mental illness, drug and alcohol misuse on people's workloads.
- Information and recording systems should be developed to support effective services to families.
- Budget allocations need to reflect the extent and nature of the work. Currently, drug and alcohol budgets grossly underestimate actual costs and expenditure.
- Agencies should assess the place of joint protocols as one of the levers to promote good practice in working with families across agency and departmental interfaces. SCIE Guide 2 provides assistance with writing a protocol.
- Alcohol strategies should pay greater attention to the impact of parental alcohol misuse.
- Agencies should develop clear and applicable agreements about case confidentiality. Mediation arrangements should be in place.
- Commissioning arrangements should require service providers to comply with and contribute to the development of good practice in joint working.
- Agencies should consider developing joint commissioning frameworks to support effective joint working at all levels across agency and departmental interfaces, including consistent budgeting arrangements and decision-making criteria.
- Social services departments should analyse the learning and development needs of staff at different levels of the organisation, including middle and senior managers, and identify strategies that work best for staff at different levels in the organisation.
- Agencies should consider 'joint training' as a means of inter-professional development, focusing on the transfer of skills across professional groups.
- Child care training at all levels should include working with the family group.
- Effective models of joint working and well-designed protocols should be shared with other local authorities and agencies.
- Consultation with front-line staff about inter- and intra-organisational planning should be integral to the planning process. Policy and service development should build on vertical as well as horizontal links.
- Primary care trusts hold a major responsibility for coordinating family-focused work where there are parental mental health, drug or alcohol problems. Commissioning arrangements need to reflect and promote this.
Other SCIE resources
Other SCIE resources on families with parental mental ill health or drug and alcohol abuse that may interest you include:
- Guide 2: Families that have alcohol and mental health problems: a template for partnership working
- The Parental Mental Health and Child Welfare Network