This week marked another milestone for Think Ahead as our second intake of graduates and career changers began their journey into mental health social work.
The 98 participants, who studied at over 50 different universities, arrived at our Summer Institute on Sunday for six weeks of intensive learning. We’re working in partnership with the Universities of York and Central Lancashire to inspire and prepare these talented individuals for social work practice by inviting leading social workers, those who access mental health services, our 2016 participants and those central to building Think Ahead, to contribute to the Summer Institute.
Yesterday three of Think Ahead’s Trustees congratulated participants on choosing such a worthwhile career path.
Chair of Trustees Professor Dame Carol Black told participants that it was “a joy and a pleasure” to help create “such a fantastic programme” and spoke of the important work participants would do in supporting people with mental health problems to live “fulfilling lives”.
Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP described his own family’s experiences with mental health and highlighted where he thought improvements in the system were needed, telling the trainee social workers “you are the leaders of the future – the people who can inspire and lead change”. The former Care Minister said the country’s health system was at a crossroads, and that we need to travel towards “dignity, compassion, human rights, and ambition for people”. “We need to focus more on the social determinants of mental health,” he added, citing the impact of housing, work, and childhood experiences.
Sir Julian Le Grand, a Professor of Social Policy at LSE who has chaired government advisory groups and reviews into health and social work, pointed out the challenging nature of the job. “You’ve got to understand medicine, mental health, the politics of the team you are in, social sciences, and the wider social and economic contexts in which you are set,” he said. “None of us have a job as hard as the one you are entering”.
After the six-week Summer Institute – hosted by the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus – participants will join community mental health services around England where they will spend a year learning on-the-job in teams of four. They will be supported by an experienced social worker. They’ll then spend a second year working as a newly-qualified social worker in that same NHS Trust or Local Authority whilst completing their Masters degree in social work.
You can find out about the important work they will be doing from two participants from last year on BBC Radio 4.