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The 1983 Mental Health Act promised a new emphasis on the social context of mental disorder and, in particular, on the role of the social worker in its management. The authors present the findings of the only major research into the experience of social services departments in implementing the Act and its impact on the compulsorily detained. The authors argue that if the social perspective on mental disorder is to influence practice significantly then a radical redistribution of resources away from medical services and a greater confidence amongst social work practitioners in the benefits of social and psychological understanding, are called for. 001 0415105994