Skip to content
September 2020

Government provides up to £27m to expand Think Ahead programme

The Department of Health and Social Care has today announced that it has awarded Think Ahead up to £27m, to fund at least two further cohorts of the Think Ahead graduate programme each providing 160 places per year – a 60% increase in the annual intake.

Our programme offers talented graduates and career-changers a paid route to qualify as mental health social workers, including a master’s degree from Middlesex University. They join NHS and Local Authority teams across England, providing support to people with serious mental health problems.

Supporting the coronavirus response

This vital work has become even more important during the coronavirus pandemic, and the programme gives candidates the opportunity to become part of the national response to Covid-19.

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 .

Ella Joseph, Think Ahead’s Chief Executive.

Welcoming the new funding, our 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.”

Applications open

Applications for the first 160 places, to begin training in Summer 2021, have opened today. You don’t need prior experience in the sector, or to have studied a related subject – what matters is your skills and your values.

I encourage anyone who can bring the skills, compassion, and commitment we are looking for to seriously consider applying to Think Ahead.

Professor Dame Carol Black, Think Ahead’s Chair

Celebrating the programme’s expansion, our Chair, Professor Dame Carol Black, said: “It’s been wonderful to see so many passionate people coming into the mental health sector through Think Ahead over the last five years, so I am very pleased that we are able to expand the programme and train hundreds more talented graduates.

“Helping people to lead independent, fulfilling lives is one of the most important and rewarding career choices you can make. I encourage anyone who can bring the skills, compassion, and commitment we are looking for to seriously consider applying to Think Ahead.”

You can find out more about the programme, and how to apply, here.

Wide support

The programme’s expansion has been widely welcomed by senior figures from the government and across the sector:

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.”

Claire Murdoch CBE, NHS England’s National Director of Mental Health, 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.”

Dr Navina Evans CBE, CEO of East London NHS Trust and a Think Ahead trustee, said: “I’m delighted to hear that the programme is expanding. Our Trust has hosted almost 40 Think Ahead trainee mental health social workers over the last five years. I know what a difference they make to service users, and how much they are valued by colleagues across the whole Trust. It means more people across all our communities will be getting the very best in high calibre support they deserve.”

Paul Farmer CBE, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “It’s great to see further funding for Think Ahead. The programme is supporting people who want to become mental health social workers and change the lives of people who experience serious mental health problems. People’s social circumstances – such as their finances, living arrangements and relationships – are crucial to good mental health. That has become even more clear this year as the coronavirus has had a deep impact on many people’s lives.”

Dr Lucille Allain, Head of the Mental Health and Social Work Department at Middlesex University, said: “As the academic partner of the Think Ahead programme, Middlesex University is delighted that the programme has been extended to allow us to train more social workers who’ll make a real difference to people with severe and enduring mental health problems. We’ve been so impressed with the commitment, enthusiasm and skills of the trainees who we’ve seen so far coming through the programme, and we’re looking forward to being part of training hundreds more.”

Find out more about the programme and how to apply