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November 2017

“It’s how mental health social work should be” – why Durham chose to partner with Think Ahead

Each year Think Ahead partners with NHS Trusts and Local Authorities across England to deliver high-quality social work training for our participants, and to support local services to realise the impact that social interventions can have on people with mental health problems.

One of these partners is Durham County Council, which has hosted units of four Think Ahead participants in both our 2016 and 2017 intakes. Recently, at the launch of our Impact Review we heard from Tracy Joisce, the Strategic Manager responsible for Durham’s mental health services, and Simon Owens, the Consultant Social Worker who leads our participant units in Durham. Both were enthusiastic about the positive impact that our participants have made in Durham, not only through their direct work with service users but upon services more widely.

Simon said: “It feels like how mental health social work should be. It’s a privilege to work with these dynamic people… they’re thinking differently, and we can think differently as an organisation. We are putting that social perspective back into mental health… and bringing social interventions into practice.”

“We were really struggling to hear the social work voice,” added Tracy. “I really pushed hard to partner [with Think Ahead] and it’s really been successful in changing the focus in that service.”

Tracy also pointed to how Think Ahead has helped with recruitment in Durham at a difficult time: “Not only do students want to come as part of the Think Ahead project, but students of the broader university population also now want to work in mental health services,” she said. “That’s had a massive, positive impact for us.”

Below you can listen to the audio of Simon and Tracy talking with Think Ahead Trustee Ruth Allen about their experiences of the Think Ahead programme so far.

We are open for applications now from organisations interested in hosting participants from our third cohort next year. If you’re interested, you can read more about partnering with us, or get in touch on