Mental Health Officers (MHOs) are social workers with a minimum of two years post qualifying experience who have gained the Mental Health Officer Award (MHOA), which prepares experienced social workers to undertake the statutory role. MHOs have a unique role in supporting and protecting people vulnerable because of mental disorder. Their duties include:

  • protecting health, safety, welfare, finances and property
  • safeguarding of rights and freedom
  • duties to the court
  • public protection in relation to mentally ill offenders.

MHOs are involved in the assessment of individuals experiencing mental disorder who may need compulsory measures of care, treatment and in some cases, detention. The role carries considerable autonomy and responsibility and involves working alongside medical and legal professionals.


The training of MHOs needs to reflect the high standard of expertise, legal knowledge and autonomy required to undertake the role.

The MHOA postgraduate certificate is at SCQF level 11 and it is only available to social workers currently employed by local authorities. It ensures social workers gain and can demonstrate the applied knowledge, competences and values needed in meeting the complexity of the functions and duties of MHOs and particular skills in relation to mental health social work.

The MHOA is. There are three MHOA programmes delivered by a university within a programme provider partnership:

  • University of Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian University in partnership with Learning Network West
  • Edinburgh University Partnership
  • Robert Gordon University Partnership.

Mental Health Officer Report

Read our most recent Mental Health Officer data report here.

It includes, among other things, data on headcount and WTEs by local authority and by population. We published additional tables from 2016 here.

We also published extensive time series data on MHOs last year (for the period 2005-16), which you can read here.