Enhancing social networks: a qualitative study of health and social care practice in UK mental health services

Webber M, Reidy H, Ansari D, Stevens M, Morris D

Health and Social Care in the Community 2015, 23, 2: 180—189

Available online 1 Dec 2014


People with severe mental health problems such as psychosis have access to less social capital, defined as resources within social networks, than members of the general population. However, a lack of theoretically and empirically informed models hampers the development of social interventions which seek to enhance an individual’s social networks. This paper reports the findings of a qualitative study, which used ethnographic field methods in six sites in England to investigate how workers helped people recovering from psychosis to enhance their social networks. This study drew upon practice wisdom and lived experience to provide data for intervention modelling. Data were collected from 73 practitioners and 51 people who used their services in two phases. Data were selected and coded using a grounded theory approach to depict the key themes that appeared to underpin the generation of social capital within networks. Findings are presented in four over-arching themes – worker skills, attitudes and roles; connecting people processes; role of the agency; and barriers to network development. The sub-themes which were identified included worker attitudes; person-centred approach; equality of worker–individual relationship; goal setting; creating new networks and relationships; engagement through activities; practical support; existing relationships; the individual taking responsibility; identifying and overcoming barriers; and moving on. Themes were consistent with recovery models used within mental health services and will provide the basis for the development of an intervention model to enhance individuals’ access to social capital within networks.