The rise in demand for mental health services over recent years, coupled with funding cuts by commissioners, are putting these services under enormous strain. More effective and well-resourced mental health services are essential in order to support people to live meaningful and independent lives.

Social workers are central to community mental health services. Trained to focus on the social aspects of mental health, they also play important roles in safeguarding, and in assessing people's entitlement to services. Yet despite a number of recent attempts to improve the status of the social work profession, challenges remain concerning the recruitment, education and effectiveness of social workers in mental health teams, including a shortage of good quality social workers to work in mental health settings in some areas.

This report, commissioned by the Department of Health, examines the challenges facing mental health social work, and offers a blueprint for a fast-track programme that could better recruit and train high-calibre graduates for the profession.