The application of social work to questions and issues relating to law and legal systems is known as forensic social work. For criminal defendants being evaluated and treated on issues of competency and responsibility, this specialty of the social work profession extends far beyond clinics and psychiatric hospitals. In a broader sense, social work practise that is connected to legal issues and litigation, both criminal and civil, is included. This definition encompasses child custody issues such as separation, divorce, neglect, termination of parental rights, the consequences of child and spousal abuse, juvenile and adult justice services, corrections, and mandated treatment. A forensic social worker may also be involved in the development of policies or legislation aimed at promoting social justice.
Functions of the forensic social work practitioner may include:
Providing advice, information, or training to:
Criminal justice, juvenile justice, and correctional systems
Law enforcement personnel
Attorneys, law students, and paralegals
Members of the public
Diagnosis, treatment, and recommendations:
Diagnosing, assessing, and treating criminal and juvenile justice populations
Diagnosing, treating, or making recommendations about mental status, children's
interests, incapacities, or inability to testify
Serving as an expert witness
Screening, evaluating, or treating law enforcement and other criminal justice personnel
Policy and program development
Mediation, advocacy, and arbitration
Teaching, training, and supervising
Behavioral Science Research and Analysis
Practitioners of forensic social work only engage in forensic activities that are within their areas of competence and expertise.
In 1936, the first Psychiatric Social Worker was appointed in London. In 1930, the British Association of Psychiatric Social Workers was founded. In England and Wales, the majority of expertise has been concentrated in Specialist Hospitals. Broadmoor Hospital was the first to employ a qualified mental health social worker, and it wasn't until 1969 that the first qualified mental health social worker was hired.
"Social work with mentally disordered people who present, or are subject to, significant risk and, as a result, are, or could be, in contact with the criminal justice system," according to the Central Council for Training and Education in Social Work (which was responsible for promoting education and training in social work between 1971 and 2001). The primary goal of forensic social work is to strike a balance between public safety and individual well-being by collaborating with others to identify, assess, and manage risk; identify and challenge discriminatory structures and practises; engage effectively; and identify, develop, and implement strategies."
Since at least 1899, forensic social work has been carried out, in part, as a result of the settlement house movement and the expansion of urban charity work.
Role of the social worker
The social worker bridges the gap between the two worlds of hospital and community
In the United States, a forensic social worker performs a variety of tasks, including social assessments for a variety of courts, including Family Court, as well as assessments and follow-up for psychiatric hospitals.
In the United Kingdom, the forensic social worker is responsible for a variety of tasks, including hospital admission applications and, if necessary, aftercare (under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983) and social assessments. Psychiatric social workers are now known as Mental Health Professionals, Mental Health Social Workers, or, if trained, Approved Mental Health Professionals, and are frequently employed by Community Mental Health Teams, hospitals, or local governments. The social worker acts as the Social Supervisor, determining appropriate accommodations for discharged patients and assessing risk. The Mental Health First Tier Tribunal receives specialist social care reports from them.
The Department of Health in England currently identifies the following functions as being key to the social work role:
report writing and presentation;
working with individuals and families;
working in collaboration with service users and carers;
undertaking social supervision with conditionally discharged patients and the supervision of those subject to supervision and in the case of those within forensic community teams, community treatment orders;
working with external agencies and multiagency public protection arrangements (MAPPAs);
continuing professional development.
Patients who are subject to conditional discharge have been discharged under section 41 of the Mental Health Act 1983 are frequently assigned'social supervisors' from the community. Social supervisors not only support the person in the community, but they also report on their progress to the Ministry of Justice on a regular basis and may recommend that they be readmitted to the hospital.