UK mental health charity Think Ahead has received £27m of funding from the UK Government to expand its health social work graduate programme.
The funding will go toward recruiting and training 480 new health social workers over the next three years that will help more than 10,000 people in the UK living with serious mental health problems.
The recruits at Think Ahead are trained to provide psychological and practical support to help people with serious mental illness, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, and address issues such as relationships, housing, and employment, which can have a huge bearing on mental wellbeing.
Boosting mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health. Recent research suggests that those with pre-existing mental health conditions are at greater risk of significant, long-term negative effects.
This new funding will help support those who need it most by expanding the Think Ahead programme by 60%. This will see an increase from 100 trainees each year to 160.
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.”
Think Ahead Chief Executive, Ella Joseph, 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.”
The Think Ahead programme offers graduates and those looking to change career a paid route into frontline mental health services, run by the NHS and local authorities, with training delivered on the job in partnership with Middlesex University.
The programme began in 2016 and has so far been a huge success, recruiting over 500 mental health social workers. It is also recognised in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers list as one of the top 40 graduate schemes in the country.
Applications for the 2021 intake are now open, with the selection process focussing on the motivation and skills to make a difference to vulnerable people.
NHS England’s National Director of Mental Health, Claire Murdoch, 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.”