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March 2017

“There’s so much support” – Think Ahead participants meet our new recruits

That was the message from Thea Radburn, a current participant on the Think Ahead programme, to our new intake of trainee social workers at our 2017 Cohort Launch Event on Saturday.

The event allowed the 2017 participants to meet each other for the first time, and to learn from participants already going through the Think Ahead programme. It was also their first opportunity to meet some of the Consultant Social Workers who lead participant units within community mental health teams.

I can’t think of a nicer thing than waving someone off from services, knowing that you’ve been part of their recovery.

Thea, 2016 participant

The afternoon included speeches from three of our 2016 participants (pictured above), including Thea, who spoke about her experiences on the programme. Thea shared the story of a service user who she had begun working with after the breakdown of a relationship. “I’ve worked with her in a number of ways, including practical support with money and sleep issues, and solution-focused therapy.

“She’s now joined a local sports club and is getting involved in her community – and we’re working towards discharge as she feels she’s armed with a number of coping strategies. I can’t think of a nicer thing than waving someone off from services, knowing that you’ve been part of their recovery.”

Thea also shared advice with the new participants on what she would do differently if she was starting the programme again: “I’d relax a bit more. I panicked about the academic side of work, but there’s so much support and so many people looking out for you.”

The event also featured a passionate speech from British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Chief Executive and Think Ahead Trustee Ruth Allen, about the important impact our graduates will have, and how strengthening the role of social workers is a key part of providing excellent mental health support to those who need it most.

“Think Ahead is a different way to get hugely talented, committed and creative people into social work. You’re bringing great enthusiasm into the role. You can create your own practice and you should learn from your peers as much as you learn from your tutors.”

You’re always learning and your confidence will grow and grow.

Jemima, Consultant Social Worker

The 2017 intake also enjoyed a range of interactive sessions and activities, including a performance by professional acting group Acting Out and introductions to Think Ahead by our Chief Executive Ella Joseph and Programme Director Kate O’Regan. There was also a Q&A session with two experienced social workers and two members of Think Ahead’s Service User and Carer Reference Group, who have lived experience of mental health problems.

“You’re always learning, so don’t be terrified when you first start,” said Jemima, a social worker who works with Think Ahead participants, during the Q&A. “Everything changes constantly – whether that’s the environment you’re working in, or the people you’re working with, so you’re always learning and your confidence will grow and grow.”

Two members of the Service User and Carer Reference Group also gave advice to the audience on what they think makes a good social worker, including: “Honesty is most important – if you can’t do something, that’s ok, but be honest with me,” and, “I want someone who will really listen. And never assume that you know best.”

Think Ahead’s 2017 cohort will begin in July, while our 2016 cohort qualify as social workers and begin the second year of the programme in September. Applications to Think Ahead’s 2018 cohort open on Monday 4 September 2017.