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Post-grad mental health social work programme gets £27 million government cash boost

Think Ahead will use the funds to recruit and train 480 mental health workers who will study at Middlesex University

A charity which runs a pioneering post-graduate programme in partnership with Middlesex University has been awarded an up to £27 million funding boost to train hundreds of new mental health workers.

Mental health charity Think Ahead will use the funds from The Department of Health and Social Care to recruit and train 480 social workers over the next two to three years.

MDX teaches the curriculum to students and awards the degrees as the academic partner, with the recruits enjoying high quality on-job training alongside.

“The impact of the pandemic on those with pre-existing mental health conditions could be significant and long lasting. By expanding the mental health workforce this new funding will boost support for the most vulnerable at a time when they need it most.” Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Nadine Dorries.

This new funding will give the most vulnerable the support they need by expanding the Think Ahead programme by 60% – from 100 trainees each year to 160.

Applications for the graduate places opened on Tuesday.

Dr Lucille Allain, Head of the Mental Health and Social Work Department at Middlesex University, said: “As the academic partner of the Think Ahead programme, Middlesex University is delighted that the programme has been extended to allow us to train more social workers who’ll make a real difference to people with severe and enduring mental health problems.

“We’ve been so impressed with the commitment, enthusiasm and skills of the trainees who we’ve seen so far coming through the programme, and we’re looking forward to being part of training hundreds more.”

The recruits are trained to provide psychological and practical support to help people with serious mental illness, such as severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and address issues such as relationships, housing and employment, which can have a huge bearing on mental wellbeing.

The new wave of mental health social workers will provide a vital part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic which has had a significant impact on mental health.

Think Ahead Chief Executive, Ella Joseph, said: “We are delighted to be able to train hundreds more social workers, who will play a key part in the nation’s mental health recovery from coronavirus.

“The pandemic has shown us more than ever that social factors like isolation, relationships, finances and living arrangements have profound impacts on mental health – social workers are uniquely placed to help people with severe mental health problems to address issues like these.”

The programme, which began in 2016, has been a huge success, and so far has recruited more than 500 mental health social workers. It is recognised in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers list as one of the top 40 graduate schemes in the country, and receives more than 30 applications for each place.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “The programme is supporting people who want to become mental health social workers and change the lives of people who experience serious mental health problems.

“People’s social circumstances – such as their finances, living arrangements and relationships – are crucial to good mental health.

“That has become even more clear this year as the coronavirus has had a deep impact on many people’s lives.”

Mental illness affects one in four adults in England each year. It has the same effect on life expectancy as smoking, and overall costs the UK over £100 billion a year in healthcare and lost productivity.

Find out more about studying Social Work at Middlesex University

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