Mental Health Outreach Worker

Outreach or support workers in integrated community services teams specialise in supporting people with long-term mental health problems.  They help them adapt to ordinary life within the community by developing coping skills rather than being institutionalised in a hospital or hostel, within a framework of positive consultation and joint planning.

Work Environment
The job entails working within the client's home, outside in the local area, on the wards of the local hospital, and in community or day centres.  Outreach workers have to work with people who can become verbally abusive, may live in a dirty surroundings and may also have other sorts of challenging behaviour.  This means that the workers will have a legal responsibility for the health and safety of themselves and others and adhere to Lone Working policy and procedures.  Teams provide services to the community every day of the year and work on a rota system covering bank holidays, weekends and evenings.  The standard working week is usually 37 hours.  On occasions it will be necessary to sleep over in a client's home for which an additional allowance may be paid.

Daily Activities
Outreach workers provide help and relieve stress for persons with enduring mental health problems and are responsible to the Senior Outreach Worker, Community Support Services Manager or Community Mental Health Officer.  They will also provide the same sort of support to the carer. This will involve the provision of personal, social and domestic care, training and opportunities to engage in meaningful activities and experiences at home and within the local community. They will work closely with all members of the community team to enable their clients to continue living in the community with comfort and dignity. The overall aim is to improve the quality of life of people who have mental health difficulties and prevent inappropriate admissions to hospital. On a day-to-day basis the outreach worker will:

  • attend the homes of identified individuals/families to carry out duties and tasks as specified in the care plan designed to enable a good degree of independent living - for example, go with the client to collect welfare benefits or a pension;
  • listen and give consideration to what both the client and carer would like to do and help them as best they can;
  • identify deterioration in clients which will enable action to be taken to help them, for example with physical care such as bathing, cooking and so on;
  • monitor and oversee any medication prescribed by qualified medical practitioners and check for any changes that have been made in dosage;
  • provide a safe environment for those who need long-term supervision and support;
  • help the client with preparation of meals, shopping, cleaning and laundry;
  • note any significant changes in clients health, outlook and behaviour and refer upwards for advice about what action to take;
  • assist in any assessment procedures;
  • provide regular verbal and written reports to the senior outreach worker/manager and in particular raise any issues about any alteration in the client's family circumstances;
  • manage the induction process of newly appointed outreach staff.

Skills & Interests
To do the job well you would need:

  • an understanding of mental health issues;
  • good interpersonal skills;
  • ability to communicate effectively in writing and orally;
  • capable of maintaining appropriate written records;
  • awareness of confidentiality;
  • to be able to work on your own initiative as well as part of a team;
  • awareness of health and safety issues for others and self;
  • a caring nature;
  • be able to follow instructions as part of a planned program of care;
  • awareness of equalities legislation.

Entry Requirements
It is essential to have at least one year's experience of working/caring for people with mental health problems, and be willing to undertake further training.  It is desirable that you have an NVQ Level 3 in Care, or be working towards an NVQ relevant to this area of work.  A Criminal Records Bureau vetting check will be a requirement for this job.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
It might be difficult work but there is considerable satisfaction to be gained from helping people with difficulties manage their lives more effectively.  In social work the demand for staff is greater than the supply, so there are many opportunities for advancement.  The promotion path within this particular area would lead to the posts of Community Support Services Manager, Community Mental Health Officer or Senior Outreach Worker.  There are also care management posts to aspire to.  With outreach work there is the chance to work on special issues like drugs and alcohol dependence, asylum seekers, Aids and so on.  As a long-term aim you could progress by studying for the Diploma in Social Work.

Further Information & Services
Care Council for Wales
Community Service Volunteers
Skills for Care
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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