New £1.6m mental health social worker recruitment programme

A new scheme has been launched to recruit and train graduates to become mental health social workers.

The Think Ahead programme is being announced by Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb, and is being funded by £1.6 million in Government money.

One in four people are likely to experience a mental health problem during their lives, and it is now one of the most common reasons for visits to GPs. The NHS and local councils are under strain to provide for the increasing demand.

Mr Lamb said: “I want to build a fairer society with better mental health care for everyone – that’s why we’re investing £1.6 million 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.”

It is hoped that in its first year Think Ahead will attract 80 to 100 recruits into mental health social work roles, where they will improve care and develop new ways for social workers to operate in mental health services.

The intensive two-year programme emphasises on-the-job experience and will put successful applicants into frontline roles almost immediately.

Think Ahead chief executive Ella Joseph 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.”

Social work has not traditionally been seen as a high-status career choice: in 2011/12 less than 10% of the intake to social work master’s degrees came from the highly-selective Russell Group of universities.

Frances Turner, a Cambridge graduate and senior social worker in mental health services, said: “I couldn’t have chosen a more fulfilling career than social work. It’s a privilege to spend my days supporting an incredible variety of people in all sorts of ways, instead of sitting behind a desk.

“I’ve been able to put into practice my values and what I learnt at university – from communicating effectively under pressure, to building relationships, to working with complex legislation and ensuring people’s rights are upheld. I’m excited that Think Ahead is going to make more people aware that social work is a hugely rewarding career option.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2014, All Rights Reserved.