Forensic Social Work: Implementing Specialist Social Work Education

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This article reports on a case study of specialist social work education in Australia. In particular, the views of specialist forensic social workers are explored both about their needs for social work education to support them for practice in forensic social work and also about their experiences of a particular program. Whilst social work education focuses in varying degrees on mental health practice, social workers not only in mental health and corrections but also in child protection, disability, and drug and alcohol services are increasingly expected to understand linkages between offending behavior, psychological disorder and family systems, and balance community and individual needs. The social workers reported that their experience of postqualifying education led to adaptations in the nature of their practice, the development of generic skills, which enabled them to incorporate an awareness of the effects of the justice system on mental health and to balance what are often opposing needs and considerations when working in this contested area. The experiences of the study group of forensic social work practitioners can be used to inform the development of similar specialist programs elsewhere not only in forensic social work but more widely as part of debates about the nature of specialist social work practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)726-741
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • corrections
  • forensic postqualifying social work education
  • mental health
  • Social work

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