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September 2019

Applications now open to join the Think Ahead programme in 2020

Update: Applications to join the Think Ahead programme in 2020 are now closed.

We are delighted to announce that applications to join Think Ahead in 2020 are now open.

Think Ahead is looking for talented graduates and career-changers who are remarkable enough to make a real difference in tackling the UK’s mental health challenge.

Our work focuses on building relationships with adults living with mental health problems and empowering them to lead more fulfilling lives.

During our two-year programme you’ll be paid to develop your skills, undertake leadership training and work alongside clinical professionals – all while studying for a master’s degree in mental health social work.

We have places for around 100 applicants to train and qualify as social workers, and transform the lives of people in communities across England, when our next programme cycle starts in July 2020.

If you are passionate about having a positive impact on society, the Think Ahead programme could be for you.

About the role

As a mental health social worker you will be responsible for helping people with a wide range of mental health problems – including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia – and will support them to tackle social issues in their lives that have a profound impact on their mental health.

Mental health social work is a highly varied role that offers a wide range of opportunities to improve the lives of the people you work with.

You will help them to address a diverse range of factors, including relationships, housing, and employment, that are often overlooked in treatment of mental illness.

This might include standing up for someone’s legal rights in the workplace; reconnecting them with friends, family and their local community; or working with local authorities to make sure they are living in accommodation that is suitable for their needs.

For more examples of what mental health social work looks like in practice, visit our About mental health social work page and read first-hand accounts from social workers. You can also watch Maisie, a 2016 Think Ahead participant, describe her work.

About the programme

Think Ahead’s programme begins with a four-week residential Summer Institute, where you will join the rest of the 2020 intake to learn the skills you will need to start frontline work in mental health social work.

You will then spend two years working in an NHS Trust or Local Authority, qualifying as a social worker after your first year. You gain your master’s degree after successfully completing the second year.

About his decision to join the programme, 2017 participant Jan said: “After studying Ancient History at university, I worked in the City as a head hunter for banks but I didn’t find this fulfilling.

“I applied for the Think Ahead programme because it offered the perfect opportunity to study for an MA while also being paid to work in mental health social work.

“Being on the programme has given me the opportunity to work with people who have a wide range of mental health problems.

“The Think Ahead programme has given me a deeper understanding of the impact that mental health can have on both the individual and the people who care for them.”

You can find out more on our How the programme works page.

Who we’re looking for

Think Ahead welcomes applications from people with a wide variety of backgrounds and academic disciplines.

You don’t need to have worked in the mental health sector or studied a related subject at university – we’re looking for people who have the potential to become great mental health social workers. We welcome applications from people with lived experience of mental ill health.

Previous participants have held undergraduate degrees ranging from film studies, English literature, sports science and archaeology, through to politics, sociology and psychology.

One common strand among all of our participants is a shared passion and commitment to making a tangible difference to the lives of people with mental health problems.

To learn more about our previous participants’ stories, visit our Who we’re looking for page.

How to make your application stand out

There are seven attributes that we think are crucial to becoming an excellent mental health social worker, and we will assess your application against these.

To aid us in spotting these qualities in your application, it’s helpful to give specific examples – which can be taken from any area of your life – of a time you have demonstrated them.

We also advise you to get your application in early, as we run assessment centres and offer places on a rolling basis during the application period, which will close in the New Year.

For more tips and guidance on applying, as well as more information about our eligibility criteria and the selection process, please visit our How to apply page.

The application deadline will be announced with at least two weeks’ notice. Sign up to our newsletter to be alerted.

When you’re ready to join the Think Ahead 2020 programme, please visit our Opportunities page.