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November 2018

Minister meets Think Ahead participants

The Minister of State for Care, Caroline Dinenage MP, today visited Think Ahead participants working as mental health social workers. The Minister was able to hear first-hand about the impact of social work in mental health services, and the difference our participants are making in their work with people with severe and enduring mental health problems.

The Minister met with Matthew, Rebecca and Suzanne, who are all in Year Two of the Think Ahead programme and working as qualified social workers in mental health teams.

As part of the visit, which took place at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, the Minister participated in a “case consultation discussion” chaired by Think Ahead’s Lead Practice Specialist Jacqueline Bell. Case consultations are an essential part of the Think Ahead programme, as they allow participants and their managers to identify the best approach to support a particular individual*, while bringing theory and evidence-based approaches into their practice. Today’s discussion focused on a person living with paranoid schizophrenia, and the group decided that future work should include task-centred approaches, practical support and a focus on building the person’s self-esteem.

Think Ahead’s innovative training is bringing in a new generation of fantastic mental health social workers.

Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Care

The Minister was also able to learn more about the participants’ backgrounds and motivations for joining Think Ahead, as well as their experience on the programme and the varied nature of their work. Suzanne spoke about how she had originally worked as a solicitor for a few years after university, but wanted a career where she would be able to work more directly with people. Both Matthew, who initially worked as a support worker, and Rebecca, who joined Think Ahead immediately after graduating with a degree in Theology, explained how their personal experience of mental health problems inspired them to support others with similar experiences.

Reflecting on the visit, the Minister said: “Social workers’ unique expertise makes them a crucial asset to mental health teams and we are committed to recruiting new talent into the profession. It was a pleasure to meet Think Ahead participants today and hear more about their work.

“Think Ahead’s innovative training is bringing in a new generation of fantastic mental health social workers equipped to support people and make a difference within local communities.”

Think Ahead’s Co-Chief Executive Ella Joseph, who also attended the meeting, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Minister of State for Care today to show her the fantastic work our participants are doing to support people with mental health problems.

“Our mission is to promote social approaches to mental health by recruiting talented people, giving them the tools they need to become excellent mental health social workers and supporting services to unlock the potential of social work.

“We are grateful to the Department of Health and Social Care for its ongoing support for the Think Ahead programme.”

South London and Maudsley Director of Social Care, Cath Gormally, said: “It has been a great experience for the Trust to participate in the Think Ahead programme in community mental health teams in Southwark and Croydon, and in partnership with Croydon Council.

“After 12 months, we now have seven excellent, qualified social workers who are now employed by the Trust and Croydon Council. They are bringing rich social perspectives and innovative social work practice to multi-disciplinary team work in integrated services, to make real improvements to the lives of service users and carers in our local communities.”

*Case consultation discussions are strictly confidential, and the group is not given the individual’s name or other identifying details.