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How to apply

Check your eligibility

You will need to meet the Think Ahead programme’s eligibility criteria.

Check your eligibility

Register your details

We have a three-stage application process, starting with a simple registration form confirming your contact details and academic qualifications. This will be made available when applications for our next intake (2023) open in late autumn.

Take online test

Once you have completed your registration form, you will be invited to complete an online situational judgement test.

This multiple-choice test describes a number of situations that you may face as a mental health social worker, and asks you to choose an effective response to each scenario.

You need to pass this test before moving through to the final stages of our application process and results take up to 24 hours.

Complete your application form online

If your online situational judgement test is successful, you will be notified by email and will be invited to complete the application form online. You will also need to answer some questions about experiences you have had demonstrating:

  • That you are committed to Think Ahead’s goals and values.
  • That you possess the attributes necessary to become an excellent mental health social worker.

You will also be able to let us know where you would like to train and work. We do our very best to support location preferences but may need you to be flexible. Big cities such as London and Birmingham are often oversubscribed, whereas smaller towns or more rural locations like Blackpool, Durham, Scarborough and Suffolk tend to fill more slowly.

Attend an assessment centre

Based on the strength of your application and your answers to the situational judgment test, you may be invited to attend an online assessment centre.

Here you will take part in a number of activities linked to the day-to-day work of a mental health social worker.

These activities include interviews, group exercises, and a role play, which are assessed against our attributes by experienced professionals and mental health service users and carers.

Our recruitment team will share full details of what is required of you and how to maximise the opportunity ahead of your assessment date.

The assessment centre is the final stage of the selection process. You will hear within one week whether you have been successful.

Receive conditional offer

If you are successful in the selection process, you will be made a conditional offer to join the Think Ahead programme. The offer will be conditional upon:

  • Us being satisfied that you have the right to work in the UK.
  • Your references proving satisfactory.
  • You receiving a satisfactory enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate, with subscription to the update service.
  • You undergoing a satisfactory occupational health assessment.
  • You accepting a place that we offer you, and, usually, undertaking a day of work shadowing with your host organisation.

Receive unconditional offer

Once you have met the conditions of the offer, you will be made an unconditional offer.

If you accept it you will be sent a contract to sign, and some preparatory reading.


To find out more about the application process for the Think Ahead programme, watch the video below:

Guidance on the selection process

Our selection process is designed to test your potential to become an excellent mental health social worker – so you don’t have to be the finished product when you apply.

But there are a few things that you can do to improve your chances of success:

Make sure you understand, and want to do, the job

  • Think carefully about your reasons for applying and why mental health social work and Think Ahead is the right career move for you.
  • Do some research on what being a mental health social worker is like – as well as helping you decide if it’s the right job for you, this will be useful if you are invited to assessment. To start you off, you can look at our about mental health social work page and relevant content in our news section.

Think about how you will demonstrate the attributes

  • On the application form and at the assessment, you will need to provide examples—from your work, academic, or personal life—showing that you have the attributes we are looking for.
  • Try to use a variety of different examples, to show the depth of your experience.
  • We’re interested in things you have done yourself (and if you were part of a team, the personal contribution you made). You should be able to use “I” rather than “we” when describing what was done and achieved.

Take care over the online application

  • Complete the application form carefully, and take your time.
  • Check your writing for spelling and grammar.
  • Make sure you answer the question that you are being asked. Do not just copy and paste your answer from another application form.

Approach the assessment professionally

  • Wear professional dress.
  • Be prepared to present your photo ID.

Stay relaxed!

We want to see you in your best light, so we’ll do our best to put you at your ease.