Social work with adults
Social work with adults takes place across diverse settings and sectors and includes a broad range of interventions and services which aim to promote the wellbeing and protection of adults using a social-ecological perspective. This involves promoting and upholding the importance of relationships with a human rights and person-centred perspective in a complex social, policy and legislative context.
It is a hugely diverse area of practice that contributes significant expertise to adult social care and support services and across multiple formal and informal partnership arrangements. This includes health and social care, community justice, housing and homelessness, drug and alcohol use and mental health partnership arenas.
Social workers working with adults are in close partnership with a range of individual statutory and voluntary agencies, including children and young people’s services and can be working with adults across a wide age span from sixteen onwards depending on their role. This includes older people, dementia, frailty, palliative and end of life care; mental health, drug and alcohol, learning disabilities, physical and sensory disabilities, autism; support to carers and other specialist services.
You can reflect on how you work in teams and partnerships.
Social workers will be working with adults who are facing multiple physical, psychological and social issues and within diverse family and community contexts, including with carers. They work with the complex issues facing adults using outcomes-focused and strengths-based approaches; balancing rights and risks and taking appropriate action to support and protect people.
Those working in this area are knowledgeable about and fluent in the application of specific legislation in relation to their powers and duties along with broader legislation, policy and guidance. They use this knowledge to take action which supports choice and control, wellbeing and safety for individuals and the community.
Examples of the work often undertaken by social workers in this practice area include:
- completing complex and comprehensive assessments and provision of reports to assist decision making and to make legal applications
- contribution to multi-agency planning and leadership of interventions to support and protect adults and acting as a council officer
- planning with and support for adults ensuring that they are fully involved in decision making about their care
- provision of evidence-informed therapeutic and behaviour change interventions
- some social workers who undertake an additional qualification may be working in the role of Mental Health Officer (MHO)
Whatever setting you work in please find out about the relevant legislation, policy and guidance. We’ve included some links here, but always recommend that you check the most up to date and relevant material within your practice setting.
Key legislation informing practice with adults
The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 provides ways to protect and safeguard the welfare and finances of adults who lack capacity to take some or all decisions for themselves because of a mental disorder or an inability to communicate.
The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 places duties on local councils to provide care and support services for people with mental disorders.
Under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, the police must provide support for persons in custody who are unable to sufficiently understand what is happening or communicate with the police because of a mental disorder.
The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 aims to protect those adults who are unable to safeguard their own interests and are at risk of harm because they are affected by disability, mental disorder, illness, physical or mental infirmity.
Policy and practice guidance for working with adults
Scottish Government appropriate adult guidance for local authorities outlines statutory duties relating to the provision of Appropriate Adult services.
Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland Guidance on supervising and supporting welfare guardians (PDF).
Scottish Government adult support and protection website.
The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland protects and promotes the human rights of people with mental illness, learning disabilities, dementia and related conditions.
The School of Forensic Mental Health promotes education, training and research.
The Mental Health Tribunal Scotland considers applications for Compulsory Treatment Orders under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act.
Iriss has developed an online safety and wellbeing of adults at risk of harm learning resource.
Please let us know about any guidance and resources that you would like to recommend to other NQSWs working with adults.