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£1.6m gov’t funding intends to fast-track grads into mental health social work

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UK Care and support minister Norman Lamb will announce a £1.6 million government funding for a training scheme to fast-track graduates into mental health social work.

Dubbed Think Ahead, the programme is aiming to attract and train as many as 80 to 100 top graduates and high flyers who are looking for a career change into social work specifically mental health social work. The funding will be utilised by the programme to fund its operational costs for the year 2015-16 to recruit students, design the academic curriculum, and to develop a leadership training element for the scheme.

“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”, said Lamb. “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.”

Government announced Think Ahead in 2014 with the aim of recruiting and training ‘high-calibre’ graduates under an intensive two year on-the-job training programme for mental health social work.

The Think Ahead Programme

Designed in stages, the Think Ahead programme involves pre-placement stage, a year-long practice placement and finally the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) stage.

Under the pre-placement programme, participants will spend three to six weeks for classroom-based training, including a ‘comprehensive introduction’ to fundamental concepts of social work theory. The programme’s curriculum will be designed with a partner university to be announced next month.

The next stage involves a year-long practice placement in one of the host organisations wherein they will also have additional teaching days. The placement will mainly be based in integrated community mental health service including potentially children’s social work.

At the end of the year those who succeed will be awarded a postgraduate diploma in social work enabling them to practise as a newly qualified social worker.

Finally, under the third stage, the diploma holders will be employed on a fixed-term one year contract as newly qualified social workers at their host organisations. They will be required to undertake the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment during this time and also complete a Master’s degree in social work. At the end of the second year the participant can seek employment opportunities across social work.