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August 2019

“You’re coming to a space where there’s a new sense of optimism” – Summer Institute 2019 comes to an end

Participants in our 2019 Cohort have completed their six-week Summer Institute today, and are ready to embark on the next part of their journeys to become mental health social workers.

The six weeks of residential training was delivered in partnership with Middlesex University, who are the academic partner for the Think Ahead programme, and took place at the university’s campus in Hendon.

Participants covered a huge range of topics in their learning – including social work theory, law, working with different groups (including children and families and older people), and a focused look at Motivational Interviewing (which is a social intervention). Teaching was delivered by experienced social work academics, practicing social workers and experts by experience.

Hearing from sector leaders

Throughout the Summer Institute, participants heard from a number of sector leaders, who visited to give evening speeches.

Sir Norman Lamb MP, who was the minister who first commissioned the set-up of Think Ahead in 2014, told participants: “You are embarking on something that’s immensely valuable and will have a real impact on people.” He discussed the importance of parity between mental health and physical health, and his personal reasons for being passionate about mental health social work. You can watch a video of his full speech here.

Paul Farmer CBE (pictured above), the Chief Executive of Mind and one of Think Ahead’s founding board members, explained that attitudes to mental health are changing: “You are coming to a space where there’s a new sense of optimism and positivity, and commitment to, and investment in, the cause of mental health problems.” But he was also clear that there is still a lot of work to do, saying: “We must recognise the scale of need in mental health to be able to respond to it – but also, critically, to bring more people into working in this space. That’s why I’m so pleased you’re all here to train as mental health social workers.”

Participants also heard from two current Think Ahead board members: Professor David Croisdale-Appleby OBE, who has led a number of reviews into social work, talked about the importance of integration in mental health and social work. While Ruth Allen, the Chief Executive of British Association of Social Workers, described the history of social work in mental health services and her hopes for the role of social work in the future.

Claire Murdoch CBE, the Chief Executive of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust and NHS England’s National Mental Health Director, talked about the NHS Long Term Plan and the role that social workers will play in delivering it and shaping the future of mental health services in England.

Finally, Lyn Romeo, the Chief Social Worker for Adults, spoke on the final morning of the Summer Institute, talking about the value of social workers in mental health services – and how social workers are key to integrated and personalised health and social care.

Next steps for participants

From early September participants will join NHS Trusts and Local Authorities, where they will continue to learn on-the-job in mental health teams. They will also have further teaching days to continue developing their knowledge and understanding of social work, and will carry out assignments as they work towards becoming qualified social workers.