Substance Misuse Worker

Young people who misuse drugs and alcohol have complex needs and dealing with them is no easy matter.  This job involves providing a specialist service to children, young people and their families who present a range of agencies with substance misuse problems. The substance misuse (SM) worker is responsible to the Team Manager (Young Persons).  The post is available in all types of authority except for district councils.

Work Environment
Work settings include the office and a number of outreach venues, community bases, schools and family homes.  Situations can sometimes be distressing because clients can be aggressive and uncooperative.  The working week is a standard 37 hours with some anti-social shifts.

Daily Activities
This is essentially a team task that also cuts across the social services department as a whole and with staff in other agencies.  SM workers liaise closely with senior figures in the following teams:

  • the manager (young persons);
  • the project manager (outreach);
  • social workers (children and families);
  • community support workers (children and families);
  • drug action groups;
  • youth offending services.

They also have key relationships with the:

  • police authority;
  • education authority and schools;
  • health authorities;
  • housing department.

Substance misuse workers have a duty to:

  • develop and deliver constructive intervention through group and individual work;
  • work closely with practitioners from other agencies concerned with drug abuse;
  • assist with basic drug/alcohol training and provide specialist advice;
  • identify those at risk as soon as possible and seek to prevent further problems;
  • address specific individual needs;
  • take personal management responsibility for a caseload;
  • work with children of drug using parents in small group settings and seek solutions together;
  • provide information and support for parents and carers of clients;
  • monitor the progress of support programmes;
  • maintain records, reports and correspondence of those using the service;
  • respect confidentiality;
  • keep up with relevant legislation, practice and research about substance misuse and young people.

Skills & Interests
They must have:

  • an understanding of the physical, psychological and social effects of substance misuse and of child and adolescent development;
  • knowledge of the Children Act of 1989;
  • developed written and verbal communication skills;
  • shown that they can identify risk/crisis situations where a client might harm him/herself or others;
  • a mature, well balanced and stable temperament;
  • a caring nature.

It would also be useful to know about different models and methods of drug/alcohol treatment interventions - motivational interviewing, brief and focused interventions, detoxification and substitute prescribing.

Entry Requirements
It is essential to have an NVQ 3 in Social Care, or equivalent.  NVQ level 4 is desirable plus a relevant professional qualification.  You would need two years experience of working in a statutory or voluntary agency with young people and some experience of working with staff from different agencies and of substance misuse related work.  Experience of working with families and of training for drug dependent clients is also desirable.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
The rapid development of Drug Action teams on a multi-agency basis is providing a range of opportunity for advancement and rewarding work.  It is an expanding area where there will always be people needing help for some time to come.  Any of the positions in the Young People's Team can be next steps for promotion with extra managerial responsibilities.  With further training and qualification in social work/care further advancement is possible.

Further Information & Services
Care Council for Wales
Community Care
Community Service Volunteers
Health & Care Professions Council
National Youth Agency
Social Care Association

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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