The Department of Health and Social Care has today announced that it has awarded Think Ahead up to £27m, to fund at least two further cohorts of the Think Ahead graduate programme each providing 160 places per year – a 60% increase in the annual intake.
The programme offers talented graduates and career-changers a paid route to qualify as mental health social workers, including a master’s degree from Middlesex University. They join NHS and Local Authority teams across England, providing support to people with serious mental health problems.
The recruits are trained to provide psychological and practical support to help people with serious mental illness, such as severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and address issues such as relationships, housing, and employment which can have a huge bearing on mental wellbeing.
The work has, the programme says has become even more important during the coronavirus pandemic, and the programme gives candidates the opportunity to become part of the national response to Covid-19.
Ella Joseph, Think Ahead’s Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to be able to train hundreds more social workers, who will play a key part in the nation’s mental health recovery from coronavirus.”
“The pandemic has shown us more than ever that social factors like isolation, relationships, finances and living arrangements have profound impacts on mental health – social workers are uniquely placed to help people with severe mental health problems to address issues like these.”
Celebrating the programme’s expansion, our Chair, Professor Dame Carol Black, said: “It’s been wonderful to see so many passionate people coming into the mental health sector through Think Ahead over the last five years, so I am very pleased that we are able to expand the programme and train hundreds more talented graduates.
“Helping people to lead independent, fulfilling lives is one of the most important and rewarding career choices you can make. I encourage anyone who can bring the skills, compassion, and commitment we are looking for to seriously consider applying to Think Ahead.”
Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Nadine Dorries said: “The impact of the pandemic on those with pre-existing mental health conditions could be significant and long lasting. The NHS, local services and charities have done an excellent job in being there to support those who have needed help throughout the pandemic, but it is vital that we ensure our services are fit to meet ongoing demand. By expanding the mental health workforce this new funding will boost support for the most vulnerable at a time when they need it most.”
Claire Murdoch CBE, NHS England’s National Director of Mental Health, said: “Expanding mental health care for patients, including by boosting our workforce, is an important priority for the NHS so it’s absolutely good news that the Think Ahead programme is being enhanced, recognising that its trainees have already supported thousands of people across dozens of NHS mental health trusts in England. Mental health social workers have a vital role to play in helping to ensure that people receive the mental health and care support they need, as the NHS continues to deliver care to people who need it, as we have done throughout the pandemic.”