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York’s key role in new graduate route into mental health social work

Posted on 1 September 2015

The University of York is to lead the academic training of a new wave of mental health social workers taking a new fast-track route into the profession.

The University will lead the pioneering Think Ahead ( programme’s academic teaching as well as awarding the successful participants Masters degrees in Social Work.

One in four people experience a mental health problem per year, placing strain on the NHS and public services. Think Ahead aims to create leaders who can improve services and shape the future of mental health services.

More than 2,500 people have pre-registered their interest in applying to the programme, which has opened for applications today (Tuesday).

In its first year, Think Ahead will recruit 80 to 100 people to undergo an intensive programme which will involve learning on the job from the outset.

Applicants to the Government-backed scheme must prove academic ability and  demonstrate attributes such as resilience and empathy.

Successful applicants will join local authorities and NHS trusts in several regions of England: London, the South East, the Midlands, Yorkshire, and the North East. They will train in community mental health services, working alongside psychologists and psychiatrists to support adults with mental health problems.

Academics, headed by Professor Martin Webber, of York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work, in partnership with experts from the University of Central Lancashire, will deliver a new, cutting-edge curriculum, focused on international best practice in mental health and social work.

Care and Community Minister, Alistair Burt, said: “For years mental health services have not been given the priority they need – we are determined to put this right.

“Think Ahead will help us achieve this by attracting talented graduates to help us improve the lives of people facing mental ill-health and their families.”

Professor Webber said: “I am thrilled that the University of York is partnering with Think Ahead to develop highly talented people into expert mental health social workers.

 “We will provide participants with cutting-edge knowledge and skills, drawing on the best evidence from around the world, to equip them to hit the ground running and make an immediate difference.”

Professor Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham College Cambridge and Think Ahead’s Chair, said:  “We are looking forward to selecting our first group of remarkable people, and giving them the chance to shape the future of mental health services.

 “I’m thrilled that so many students and graduates from the UK’s top universities have pre-registered to apply, but we will be looking for more than academic ability. Successful applicants will need to demonstrate resilience, empathy, and the potential to become leaders in mental health, social work, and beyond.”

Frances Turner, a Cambridge graduate and mental health social worker who is working with Think Ahead to set up the programme, added: “I’ve been a social worker for eight years, and there is no job I’d rather do. Every day is unique, and the challenge and intellectual rigour of the role mean that I’m constantly using the skills I developed at university.

“I fully encourage ambitious graduates, who want to make a positive impact on people’s mental health, to apply to Think Ahead.”

Further information:

  • Think Ahead is funded by a grant from the Department of Health.
  • The University of York will be the awarding body for the qualifications gained by participants on the Think Ahead programme (a postgraduate diploma and a master’s degree). The University of York and the University of Central Lancashire, both leading universities in social work, are partnering to deliver the teaching.
  • More details on Think Ahead, and how the programme works, are available on the Think Ahead website at
  • Applications for the programme should be made online at
  • For more details on the Department of Social Policy and Social Work see

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