New Programme in Southend Offers Graduates the Chance to Develop a Rewarding Career in Mental Health

Deadline for applications fast approaching
Working in partnership with Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Thurrock Council, Think Ahead now welcomes applications from local candidates who are interested in beginning a career in mental health social work. Applications close at 5pm on Monday 29 April, with the programme starting in July 2019.
Mental illness is an issue which affects many people across Essex. In fact 1 in 4 adults in England suffers with mental illness and 38% of all ill-health is caused by mental illness in under 65s. The Think Ahead programme was created to drive change by offering a new route into mental health social work for graduates and career-changers looking to make a real difference to people’s lives.
The national two-year programme provides the opportunity to embark on a rewarding career supporting people with mental health problems. Every day, mental health social workers change people’s lives for the better. Mental health social workers help people living with a variety of different illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and personality disorders. They offer a trusted support system to these individuals, providing talking therapy, standing up for their rights, and empowering them to manage the social factors in their lives, such as their relationships, living situation, and employment.
Blending world-class academic learning with extensive on-the-job experience, the Think Ahead fast-track programme is open to graduates with a 2:1 degree or above in any subject. Participants come from a variety of different backgrounds, with undergraduate degrees ranging from psychology, sociology, and politics, to archaeology, drama, and sports science. The programme offers people the chance to take a new career direction and achieve a fully funded master’s degree in social work.
Dr Lynn Prendergast, Associate Director Social Care and Operational Lead at Essex Partnership University NHS Trust, said, “The devastating impact of mental ill health is frequently reported within the media. One in three families have someone within them who is experiencing poor mental health. In fact, across Southend-on-Sea and throughout the whole of Essex, thousands of people are directly affected by the issue. The Think Ahead programme is a forward-thinking initiative working to have a positive impact by encouraging more people to begin a career within mental health social work.
“Mental health social work is an extremely rewarding career. Through evidenced based interventions, standing up for people’s rights and addressing serious social issues, mental health social workers help people to live fulfilling, independent lives – making a real difference to individuals, families and to society as a whole.”
Over the course of two years, Think Ahead participants develop a vast skillset whilst learning on the job at an NHS mental health trust or local authority and eventually completing a master’s degree. In the first year, participants at the Essex-based partnership will attend a six-week residential Summer Institute alongside participants from other partnerships across the country, before joining Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust in Southend. Here they will train in a unit of four, being supervised and supported by an experienced social worker. They will also work towards a postgraduate diploma in social work – this professional qualification allows individuals to apply to the Health and Care Professions Council to become a registered social worker.
In year two, participants are employed as qualified social workers and receive a salary from their host organisation, before gaining their master’s degree. There are no programme fees throughout the duration of the programme and the qualifications are fully funded.
Georgie, 27, from Essex, studied Psychology at Hertfordshire University. She then worked in a psychiatric hospital in a number of different roles, and then worked as an assistant psychologist. She’s now a newly qualified social worker working in a recovery team within Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.
“Before I heard of the Think Ahead programme, I wanted to be a psychologist – I didn’t know what mental health social work was. But when I came across the programme, I realised it allowed me to work directly with people and make a difference to them, which was just what I wanted.
“I work in a recovery team with people with a range of conditions, and I help them in a huge variety of ways – with some people I’m helping them to stay out of hospital, or helping them address social issues like housing, budgeting or building their networks. I also provide therapeutic support, and help people to develop coping strategies. It’s a challenging role but I really enjoy it, and it’s really built on my strengths.”
Ivan Wise, Recruitment Director at Think Ahead, says: “Mental health social work is a highly rewarding profession, which allows you to build relationships with people with mental health problems and support them in their recovery. Our programme is a great way to start your career: Not only are you earning while you train, but you also get the opportunity to gain experience and leadership skills that you can apply to your work now and into the future. Since our first intake of participants in 2016, we have supported around 300 people to embark on this fulfilling career.”
Applications for the 2019 national programme are now open and close at 5pm on Monday 29 April 2019. Applicants can apply via the website where they can select their preferred location.
We’ve been working with the team to raise awareness of the programme, find out more in this coverage secured on Radio Essex: