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Research and Policy Updates

Our monthly Research and Policy Updates give you an in-depth digest of the latest research evidence and policy information relating to key themes and sector priorities. You need to be a member of RiPfA to access full RPUs, have a website account and be logged in – if you don’t have an account you can create one here.

Latest Issue:

RPU 124 May 2017

The theme of this month’s Research and Policy Update is working with people who use drugs and alcohol.

Social workers, including those who are not in specialist substance misuse teams, are highly likely to work with people who have problems with drugs and alcohol in the course of their work. Alcohol and drug use are associated with many challenges familiar to social workers, and core social work skills of empathy, non-judgmental assessment, information analysis, and strengths-based approaches are all well-suited to working in this area, even without specialist substance misuse knowledge.

It is strengths-based working and ideas of social capital that have provided some exciting and positive new areas of research. In particular, research has identified ‘recovery capital’ as a key concept. Recovery capital approaches ask: how far does someone have access to family and friends’ support, stable housing, structured social activities, education or employment? And how can recovery capital support a lifestyle away from drink and drug use?

Research is also interested in the character of this recovery capital. This includes why someone may or may not have it, how it may shift over time, how it can be harnessed and promoted, and how it interacts with formal treatment services. Many of these issues are explored in the summaries below.

Promoting recovery has been a cornerstone of UK drug and alcohol policy for the past few years but recovery is, by definition, a personal and flexible concept. In the government’s 2010 Drug Strategy – Reducing Demand, Restricting Supply, Building Recovery– it is as ‘an individual, person-centred journey, as opposed to an end state, and one that will mean different things to different people’ (p18). A working definition of ‘recovery’ might be that someone has sustained control over their drug or alcohol use. For some this might be abstinence; for others, controlled use. Given that recovery is so individual, most the papers included in this months RPU use semi-structured interviews to explore questions of social support, geography, and personal history.

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