teacher 2Thousands of students and graduates are set to apply to a new fast-track route into mental health social work with the opening of applications for the Think Ahead programme.

The government-backed Think Ahead scheme has already had more than 2,500 people pre-register their interest in applying, of which 700 are from the UK’s top universities (the Russell Group).

In its first year, Think Ahead will recruit 80 to 100 “remarkable people” to undergo an intensive programme, learning on the job from the outset. Think Ahead aims to create leaders who can improve and shape the future of mental health services.

Successful applicants will join local authorities and NHS trusts in London, the Southeast, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the Northeast. They will train in community mental health services, working alongside psychologists and psychiatrists to support adults with mental illness.

The University of York will lead the programme’s academic teaching and award the participants master’s degrees in social work. Academics from York, 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.

Minister of State for Community and Social Care 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 Dame Carol Black, principal of Newnham College Cambridge and Think Ahead’s chair, added: “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.”