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Mental health social worker programme given £1.6m funding boost

The care and support minister will announce today that £1.6m government funding will be provided for a training scheme to fast-track graduates into mental health social work. 

The Think Ahead programme aims to attract 80 to 100 recruits into mental health roles at a time when NHS and local councils are facing an increasing demand for mental health services. 

One in four people in England now experience mental health problems, and a third of families include someone with mental ill-health. 

Speaking ahead of the official announcement, Norman Lamb MP said: “I want to build a fairer society with better mental health care for everyone – that’s why we’re investing £1.6m to produce a new wave of expert social workers. 

“This is a fantastic opportunity for some of our most talented people to help shape the future of mental health care by supporting individuals, improving community services, and reducing pressure on the NHS.” 

Think Ahead is a two-year fast-track scheme for exceptional graduates and career-changers to become mental health social workers. Participants qualify as social workers in their first year, and finish the programme after two years with a master’s degree in social work. Think Ahead is supported by the Department of Health. 

Ella Joseph, Think Ahead chief executive, said: “Think Ahead offers a prestigious new fast-track route into a profession where you can make a genuine difference. 

“"We're looking for people with a rare blend of attributes, including intelligence, but as importantly empathy, compassion, and resilience. If you can demonstrate those qualities, we'll support you to get a master's degree while you train and work in a fulfilling, paid role.” 

Think Ahead’s first cohort will begin the programme in summer 2016. Applications will open online in September 2015. Assessments will be held from November 2015, and successful candidates will be informed by early 2016. 

Although being a highly selective programme, no prior experience of social work is necessary. But to be accepted candidates must: hold or achieve at least a 2:1 degree; show a passion for improving the lives of people with mental illness; and demonstrate key competencies including resilience, empathy, and intelligence. 

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